Knocking out hunger

Community-driven fundraiser packed its 500,000th meal this year, and it’s not stopping there

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

In Bucks County, one in 10 residents doesn’t know where their next meal will come from. Kids are left with permanent development issues without necessary nutrients, and seniors are experiencing depression, heart attacks and malnutrition. But one community-driven fundraiser is looking to change all of that, and knock out local hunger for good.

Providing nourishment: BKO (Bucks Knocks Out) Hunger was created five years ago as a project to help meet the basic needs of people in the community. One of the main efforts of BKO is to help food pantries obtain fresh produce. PHOTO: BKO HUNGER

BKO (Bucks Knocks Out) Hunger was created five years ago as a project to help meet the basic needs of people in the community. Each year, BKO packaged 100,000 meals to be donated to local food pantries, and this year volunteers can happily say they’ve packaged half a million meals. One of the main efforts of BKO is to help food pantries obtain fresh produce. While this is something vital to our health, fruit is rarely donated. Food drives usually take place over an extended period of time, with people keeping easy, transportable canned foods in the car to drop off at a later date.

The project began in 2013 after United Way of Bucks County received a grant from the Land O’Lakes Foundation. The grant was to be used toward the distribution of support to local food pantries through meal packing, thus BKO Hunger was formed. On Martin Luther King Day that year, BKO piloted the project and was able to package 24,000 meals.

“The volunteers responded so very positively, and it became clear that this is something the community could get behind,” said Tim Philpot, project coordinator of BKO Hunger.

Helping hands: Volunteers of all ages are welcome to participate in this year’s meal packing event on June 30 at Delaware Valley University. PHOTO: BKO HUNGER

The following year saw even more interest, and volunteers set out to raise $36,000, which was promoted in a tiered way, according to Philpot. If they raised $25,000, 100,000 meals would be packaged. At $30,000, the Bucks County Opportunity Council would assist with collecting meats and dairy products. If they reached $36,000, BKO would be able to work with local food rescue organizations to obtain fresh produce. They ended up exceeding this goal thanks to donations from generous corporations and individuals.

Since 2013, BKO has seen steady growth, and this year, the goal to be reached is $75,000. So far, they’re about two-thirds of the way there at $45,000. Once the full amount is raised, it will be distributed in a number of ways: $22,500 will cover the basic expenses needed to package the meals; $20,000 will go to the Bucks County Opportunity Council for meats and dairy products; $25,000 will be donated to the Rolling Harvest Food Rescue, a grassroots organization that works with local farmers to obtain discounted, leftover produce; and $7,500 will help implement a new community project to be determined by the food pantries based on what they feel would benefit the system.

BKO Hunger has seen consistent growth in its group of volunteers and amount of funds raised, and Philpot is optimistic that these numbers will continue to climb. The project is fully led by the volunteers, who have fostered a true sense of purpose in helping the community and raising awareness for their cause.

“We’re starting a movement,” Philpot said. ••

The official meal packing event will take place June 30 at Delaware Valley University. To register as a volunteer, visit bit.ly/BKOHunger2017. To make a donation, visit uwbucks.org/bkohunger or mail a check to 413 Hood Blvd., Fairless Hills, PA 19030.