By Marissa Christie
Originally published in the Bucks County Courier Times, July 7, 2019.
On a hot, sunny afternoon last summer, a little boy and his mom came running up to the Fresh Connect truck at one of our sites. They were very late. Empty boxes were being broken down and tables were being packed back into the truck.
“Do you have any more of the kids’ lunch boxes?” the mother asked.
“No, I’m sorry. There aren’t any left,” said one of the staff members.
The little boy, who looked about 6 or 7 years old, starting sobbing. His mother tried to calm him down, but he was inconsolable.
“I’m so sorry,” said the mom. Her voice cracked as she added, “He’s just hungry. He hasn’t had anything to eat since yesterday.”
This family is not alone. In Bucks County, four out of every 25 children are hungry or food insecure. For them, summer is particularly difficult. There are no school lunches available.
Last year, in addition to over 340,000 pounds of healthy fruits and vegetables, Fresh Connect distributed over 4,500 kids’ lunch boxes.
Fresh Connect is a free, mobile farmers market that stops in Bristol, Warminster, and Ottsville. It is a collaboration of Bucks County Opportunity Council, Philabundance, Rolling Harvest Food Rescue, and St. Mary Medical Center.
We, at United Way of Bucks County, provide all the funding, partly through our Bucks Knocks Out Hunger program. Bucks Knocks Out Hunger has been our county’s most recognizable hunger-relief fundraiser since we founded it seven years ago. All proceeds provide healthy meals packed by 700 volunteers, staples that food pantries need (eggs, cheese, milk), and fresh fruits and vegetables, both through pantries and the Fresh Connect markets.
This year is different. For the first time since we started Bucks Knocks Out Hunger, we met our goal before the 4th of July.
Our gratitude is beyond measure. Over 500 people made donations this year. Gifts ranged from $1 to $5,000. Donors ranged in age from pre-school to seniors.
Every community, including ours, has work to be done. Not every community pulls together in such a magnificent way. We are fortunate that so many people care about providing a hand-up for local families when they need it.
And although we met our goal, if you are still moved to give, there is time. We plan as best we can, using the data available, but there will always be a family that comes running up, unexpectedly at the last minute in need of help.
With a little extra, we can be ready for them.
Marissa Christie is the president and CEO of United Way of Bucks County.