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May 16, 2024 9 mins
Hunger knows no boundaries and I speak to the head of an organization that provides hunger relief to the food insecure in Lower Merion. I talk with Ben Hearn, Board President of the Narberth Community Food Bank. 
Instagram handle: narberth_food_bank 
Facebook: Narberth Community Food Bank  
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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Food and security that is, notknowing where you're going to get your next
meal is something that impacts people allover, not only in the city of
Philadelphia, where we have some ofthe highest poverty rates, but also in
enclaves like Laura Marion, like Narbirth. You wouldn't expect that there would be
food and security there, but infact there is, and that's why the

Narbirth Community Food Bank exists. Andwe're talking with Ben Hearn, board president
of the Narbirth Community Food Bank.Well, Ben, thank you so much
for joining us here today, thankyou for having me, thank you for
shining a spotlight on our organization.Well, as I implied initially, food
and security crosses all boundaries. Tellus more. Yeah, So it affects

forty four million people nationwide, andin Pennsylvania it affects two million people,
which is about fifteen percent of ourpopulation. So if you think one and
seven people in PA have some sortof food and security, you normally think
it would be in the cities likeyou mentioned, But in Montgomery County and
Lawer Marin in particular, there's alot of people so we help. I
think like four hundred households a weekover like a thousand people a month,

and that's just in lower Marine,where you would never guess where there's such
an issue, right exactly. AndI think that there's some additional factors I
believe that come into play, andthat is, over the course of the
last maybe ten fifteen years, therehave been economic recessions. There have been
folks who've been laid off. Soeven someone who might have typically been a

white collar family with the mother anddad or managers, or they're making a
decent living, but they're laid offand all of a sudden they're faced with
the prospect of food and security,and certainly with COVID that also tended to
make things a lot more challenging.Now there's a whole new category I believe

of people who perhaps never thought ina million years that they would have to
go to a food bag. Yeah, so before you used to just be
you would think homeless people are unemployedpeople. Now it's like underemployed people.
And like you said, since pandemic, it's increased I think threefold er requests
from when we've initially pre pandemic topost pandemic. And unfortunately, at the
same time, during the pandemic,there was a lot of government assistant programs.

Most of them are dried up SNAPbenefits if you're familiar with SNAP.
They've gotten like cut, I thinkby one hundred and eighty dollars a month.
They've been reduced. Food prices ingeneral are up, so it's a
difficult time right now for people.Like you said, you would you have
an image of who you think isfood and secure, but there's actually a
lot more people that you would neverguess are fighting to get the food that
they need. So tell us abouthow you guys work. I assume that

there's a lot of volunteers out therewho are doing the good work. Yes,
so we rely on dozens of volunteers, and we mostly rely on small
dollar donations as well. We havea couple employees and then we have other
people like helping out in some formof capacity, but mostly it's volunteers.
And what sets normal food bank apartfrom other food banks we actually deliver food

to people. So eighty percent ofour guests get their food delivered. So
you think like seniors with mobility issues, family where someone's working two jobs,
doesn't have time, you know,to pick up the food. Even especially
in our area, some people mighthave like a shame factor, I guess,
and like going to a food bank, you know, yeah, absolutely
so we have a lot of volunteersthat not only pack the food, bring

the food in, but then deliverit to the food and they establish really
good relationships with the people that they'redelivering food to, and we try to
give better food than normal I guess. So again, if you're thinking in
your head like food out of foodpantry, you probably have an image of
canned vegetables, canned food. Weobviously have that, but we try to
do fresh produce, dairy meat,pantry staples, cleaning goods, all kinds

of things that people need. Andwe can cater to people's dietary needs as
well, so gluten free, nopork, low sodium, whatever. We
try to cater as much as possibleto give people options of what they need.
Well, tell us how we canhelp. Can we donate food in
addition to making a dollar donation?How do we help? Sure, so,
anybody based in PA got to saythat small dollar donations would be great.

We mostly subsist on twenty five dollarsa month small dollar donors and then
food donations. If you go toour website now with Communityfoodbank dot org.
There's like one of the links youcan see has what we need. But
generally like stable food items, stableshelf items are always necessary. Food drives,
if people know how to do them, that would be great. But
yeah, donating food would be great, Donating any money that you're able to

would be great, or just eventime like volunteers, because again we're delivering
a lot of food and volunteers haveto pack the food and stuff. So
there's many ways people get help.And I guess also we're looking for corporate
sponsors right now too. Lots ofways to help. That's great, all
right, So let's get up closeand personal with Ben Hearn. You are
professionally a realtor and probably have apretty comfortable life, I would imagine,

relatively speaking, And I wonder ifyou could just tell us a little bit
about your origin story. Why didyou decide that you wanted to spend some
time to really devote to this issueof food insecurity. As a realtor,
we don't really have like a nineto five schedule, so I had free
time during the day and I wantedto give the community in a productive way.
I like to do like a bootson the ground approach. So the
executive director, Gigi, she actuallyknows my father so and I'm from Narbirth,

so we had that connection. SoI went there volunteered, and the
more I was there, the moreI saw the need because again I didn't
realize this was an issue growing upin Narbirth. When I started volunteering there
more often, I realized it wassuch an issue. There was a board
opening, so I joined the board, and then yeah, just talking about
it more and more. I liketo sm a Type one diabetics, so

food's very important to me, andI like to have certain amount of foods.
I have like a very abnormal dietsometimes, so food's pretty important to
me. And then to realize,like a lot of people in our community
just can't get food, even justnormal food might be harder. And then
again, let alone like healthier foodor like food that's better for you.
So I think that's important for peopleto have because when I started eating healthy
and all that stuff, it reallychanged my life for the better. So

I think everyone should have that opportunity. I wonder if you can share with
us any personal experiences that you've haddoing the work that you do that really
makes it feel worth So I havemostly been at the food bank doing the
bagging it up. We get deliveriesfrom Whole Foods like every Tuesday, so
bringing those in, but there wouldbe people at the line and you know,

a couple of them. Some guywanted like protein powder or something which
you would think might be hard forsomeone in a insecure situation, and we're
able to give them protein powder.So it's funny we connected with that talking
about the gym, and then peoplesend letters and tell us like how much
the volunteers who delivered the food meanto them. I've done a couple deliveries
myself. There was one person inBrinmar and they must have been like ninety
something, and I could I didn'trealize like how people's living situations could be

like that in our area. Kindof nobility was a very very big issue
for them. So I realized,like if I wasn't able to deliver food
that dated them, I don't knowwhat they would have done for food that
week. Yeah, so that kindof impacted me pretty hard seeing that like
in person. Yeah, so youactually saw the impact of what this meant
for someone who might have gone hungryif it wasn't for the Narborth Food Bank.

Yeah, and then along those lines, we do a summer meals program.
We did it a couple of yearsago. Last summer, unfortunately we
did not have funds for it.So it's like, oh, there's a
thirteen hundred school aged children and loarnmarin in school district that qualify for reduced
or free lunches, which is alot more than you would think. And
unfortunately, you know, when school'sout, they're relying. Some of the
families rely on the food at schooland we just weren't able to deliver that

last summer, so that was abig blow to us. Luckily, this
summer we're able to work with theschool district again, so we're going to
get them food again. But yeah, last summer we were talking, We're
like, what are the kids goingto do? And it's like they might
just have to go hungry, whichis a tough thing to think about for
children. Well, we know whatthe impact of food and security is for
kids. It really impacts their selfesteem, It impacts their ability to focus

at school, so and emotionally,certainly, having the stress of not knowing
where your next meal is coming fromis just a burden that kids should not
have to bear. Yeah, Iagree. Again, as a type of
diabetic, I know sometimes like ifI don't get food in a certain time,
my whole system breaks down and whatnot. So I can't imagine being in
school going through the whole without beingable to eat, trying to learn like
that would be just a very difficulttask. Right. So that's one more

reason why we should support the NarbirthCommunity Food Bank. Tell us what the
website is once again, the websiteis Narbirthcommunityfoodbank dot org. We are located
at TUA one Saban Avenue in Narbirth, that is Caddy Corner from the wah
Wah. There you can drop offfood Monday Tuesday, Thursday eight thirty to
four thirty. You can volunteer duringthose times as well. You can go
to the website and there's a tabfor volunteer information as well. There's a

tab for donations as well. Again, you have to be PA based for
those donations monetary donations that is,and you can find all that information.
People can reach out to me directly. You can look at our social media.
I think it's just Narbeth Community FoodBank. This is great. I'm
glad you came in to tell usabout this issue, because again, I
think a lot of folks don't realizethat hunger crosses all boundaries, including Narbirth

than the greater Lower Marion area.There are a lot of folks out there
who are really in need of foodand not knowing where their next meal is
going to come. I'm from,and the Narbeth Community Food Bank is there
to address that. Ben Hearn,Board President of the Narbirth Community Food Bank,
Thank you so much, Thank youso much for having us
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