Source: The Times Herald
By: Donna Rovins
UPPER MERION >> It started with a promise ― a promise made to Pope Francis by the Valley Forge Tourism and Convention Board during the world Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in 2015.
The tourism agency pledged, then, to create an annual food drive — the Valley Forge Freedom From Hunger Food Drive.
This year’s effort took place during the last two weeks of September, and for the third consecutive year, the agency surpassed its goal for food donations.
More than 4,800 pounds of food were collected this year, bringing the three-year total to more than 9,000 pounds of food collected to help feed those in need in Montgomery County. The goal for this year’s effort was 4,500 pounds of food.
“We are ecstatic to have exceeded our goal by more than 300 pounds for this year’s Valley Forge Freedom From Hunger Food Drive thanks to the generosity of those who made food and monetary donations,” Mike Bowman, president and CEO of the Valley Forge Tourism and Convention Board, said in a release. “It is so important to the VFTCB that we keep our commitment to run this annual food drive and support our residents in Montgomery County, especially those who are in times of need.”
As part of this year’s initiative, staff from the tourism agency and the Montgomery County commissioners worked alongside Manna on Main Street employees and students from the Culinary Arts Institute at Montgomery County Community College Sept. 26 to prepare meals for Manna’s guests.
Bowman — who is a former executive chef with more than 30 years of hospitality experience — led the kitchen team in preparing a three-course meal for more than 100 people.
During this year’s food drive, which took place between Sept. 16 and Sept. 30, community members were asked to donate nonperishable foods at participating drop-off locations throughout Montgomery County. A new option this year allowed people to make monetary donations, which were used to purchase the items that were needed the most.
The tourism agency partnered again with HealthSpark Foundation — a private, independent foundation providing support to organizations that serve the unmet health and human service needs of residents living in and organizations serving Montgomery County, and the MontCo Anti-Hunger Network (MAHN) — a coalition of hunger relief organizations working together to make healthy foods available to all communities in Montgomery County.
“Partnering with leaders like those at the VFTCB makes a world of difference in our work,” MontCo Anti-Hunger Network Administrator Paula Schafer said in the release. “Everyone benefits from a more vibrant community when the basic needs of its residents are met.”
The promise of a charitable outreach in Pope Francis’ name was made when the Pope stayed in Montgomery County at the St. Charles Borromeo Seminary during the international gathering.
“We established the Freedom From Hunger Food Drive as the county’s farewell gift to Pope Francis, and we think he would be proud of the work we have done so far and will continue to do for years to come,” said Bowman.
To learn more about the Valley Forge Tourism and Convention Board’s Valley Forge Freedom From Hunger Food Drive, visit www.valleyforge.org/hunger.