There are more than 110 families with children in district schools who have been identified by Upper Merion Area School District personnel as food insufficient. The families are not our only food insufficient neighbors, but are joined in this place of need by many other children, working adults, and seniors. This is not an uncommon tale in communities with relatively higher costs of living, and Bridgeport, Conshohoken, Upper Merion and Wayne are 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 is 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 have been at the table together discussing the development of a community food cupboard in the spirit of community collaboration. Many hands shall make for lighter work.
Each school within the district, along with any businesses and communities of faith who are able to participate, are being assigned one or two particular pantry items to be collected year-round. Our goal is not to solicit one-time collection drives, but to instigate the creation of an ongoing collection network that ensures our pantry is stocked year-round, and to weave this empathetic response into the fabric of our community. Monetary and in-kind donations from individuals and groups at any time will also be greatly appreciated so that we can purchase food if and when necessary. These efforts will be all volunteer driven, operating costs are next to nothing, and every food item and dollar donated will go directly to our neighbors in need. Any and all volunteers will be welcomed to help with our collection and distribution efforts.
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: