There are thousands of community neighbors within the bounds of the Upper Merion Area School District (Upper Merion, Bridgeport, the Swedes, West Conshy, and Wayne) who are food insufficient. These are families with children of all ages, working adults, seniors, unemployed and underemployed, and neighbors who live with disabilities. This is not an uncommon tale in communities with relatively higher costs of living, and our community is among those municipalities affected by a hidden poverty. In fact, according to Feeding America’s “Map the Meal Gap” project, Montgomery County has the state’s lowest percentage of food insufficient persons who qualify for state food support programs. The need is significant, and sadly, it is increasing.
The Upper Merion Area Community Cupboard began in 2018 as a collaborative response to this need. UMASD social workers and school board members, members of Upper Merion Emergency Aid, members of the UM Economic and Community Development Committee (ECDC), members of the UM Clergy, and representatives from the UM Board of Supervisors and the King of Prussia Business District instigated the development of a community food cupboard in the spirit of community collaboration. Since its genesis, the UMACC has grown quickly and faithfully to the point that it now provides life-sustaining food to hundreds of our neighbors each and every week.
Our amazing Board of Directors guides our good efforts in the present, and is always seeking to imagine future growth to meet the growing needs of our neighbors. Our goal has always been to nurture and sustain an ongoing collection network that ensures our pantry is stocked year-round, and to weave this empathetic response into the fabric of our community. We happily partner with schools, community organizations, corporations, and neighbors of good will who hold food drives to supply the UMACC. Incredibly generous monetary donations from individuals and groups have been essential and appreciated so that we can purchase food if and when necessary. These efforts are as volunteer driven as possible, so as to involve as many compassionate neighbors as possible in this good work, but our growth has necessitated the inclusion of staff to our model of operating in order to stay ahead of the need. Any and all volunteers are gratefully welcomed to help with our collection and distribution efforts, and we are proud to see how our community of volunteers is as representative and diverse as the community around us!
For centuries, the empathetic and compassionate care of the less fortunate has been celebrated by a multitude of religious and philosophical traditions as a central and meaningful facet of the human experience. Our hope is to raise a greater awareness of this need within our community, and to nurture the values of empathy and compassion more overtly within our community.
There is enough abundance and compassion within the bounds of the UMASD to ensure that no one goes hungry. We fully expect that when these community assets are organized, we will see the level of hunger need diminish, and, we will also see a greater sense of meaning and community within the UMASD. Many voices have shared the sentiment that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. It is our hope and expectation that these efforts will contribute to the strengthening of our most vulnerable neighbors, and that in doing so, we will nurture a stronger and better Bridgeport, Conshohoken, Upper Merion, and Wayne.
To learn more about us, watch the UM Community Connections interview with UMACC Board Members Tim and Eileen: