Battling for basic needs

Bucks Knocks Out Hunger campaign reaches $80,000 fundraising goal

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Quite fulfilling: United Way of Bucks County aimed to reach at least $80,000 and pack 125,000 meals and 32,000 pounds of locally grown produce. Thanks to donations, it reached its goal. Source: United Way of Bucks County

There probably won’t be a recap on ESPN. But that doesn’t make the fight any less important.

From May 7 through June 22, local food insecurity was faced with the battle of a lifetime when United Way of Bucks County hosted its sixth annual Bucks Knocks Out Hunger campaign. Each year, proceeds from the initiative help dozens of area food pantries purchase dairy, produce, meats and more than 125,000 nutritious meals for those in need.

After exceeding its 2017 goal of $75,000, which packed an impressive 100,000 meals, UW Bucks raised the bar for 2018, aiming to reach at least $80,000 and pack 125,000 meals and 32,000 pounds of locally grown produce. Despite a slower influx of donations than previous years, the organization proudly announced last month that it achieved its lofty goal.

According to Tim Philpot, UW Bucks’ impact director for health and BKO Hunger project coordinator, the campaign’s success was significantly impacted by two major gifts donated in its final weeks. The first, given by Al Brown, a Doylestown resident and philanthropist, was a challenge gift of $6,500. Brown agreed to match donations to BKO Hunger, dollar for dollar, until the gap of $13,000 was closed.

A second gift from Alex and Patricia Gorsky, also of Doylestown, was given in the hopes it would encourage others to participate in the cause. Together, these donations pushed the campaign over its goal of $80,000.

“The challenge gift from Mr. Brown could not have come at a better time. It really motivated others to give,” Philpot said. “The gift from Mr. and Mrs. Gorsky put us over the top. We’re deeply grateful for both of these gifts, as well as the hundreds of donations from other generous Bucks County residents.”

The remainder of the grand total was given by countless individuals, businesses, civic groups and sponsors, including Penn Community Bank, Bucks County Community College and Parx Casino.

On June 22 at Delaware Valley University, more than 600 volunteers convened on campus to pack 125,000 nutritious, shelf-stable meals to be distributed to dozens of local pantries and senior centers. The belief of UW Bucks is that in the community, no child should go to bed hungry, no family should have to choose between food on the table and a roof over its head, and no older adult should have to skip meals so they can afford medication.

The majority of BKO Hunger proceeds went toward the purchase of meal items, while another portion will help partner organizations such as Bucks County Opportunity Council and Rolling Harvest Food Rescue supply dairy products and eggs, things not typically collected in food drives. Ultimately, the money will help pantries fill the gaps over the coming months where they are critically low.

For the first time this year, some of the funds will be allocated to support the new Fresh Connect mobile farmers market, which boasts three locations in Bristol, Warminster and Ottsville. Each week, hundreds of local families that meet certain income criteria can stop by to choose from a variety of in-season produce, another vital dietary need not often given during food drives. Despite being open just one year, feedback gathered by UW Bucks shows that regular Fresh Connect participants have increased their intake of fruits and vegetables by 2.4 servings per day.

Since BKO Hunger kicked off six years ago, Philpot explained how statistics have improved regarding local hunger. Whereas 10 percent of residents used to be food insecure, that number has dropped to 8.9 percent. Still, the problem is far from being over.

As we speak, the organization has shifted gears for another of its annual campaigns — Stuff the Bus. In Bucks County, 16 percent of kids struggle to have their basic needs met, which includes being equipped with necessary supplies on the first day of school. Not only does a lack of a pencil or notebook affect their ability to succeed in the classroom, it significantly lowers their confidence.

In 2017, Stuff the Bus provided 2,868 kids in need with backpacks stuffed with school supplies. This year, UW Bucks has set a goal of 3,000. More information about the drive can be found at uwbucks.org/stuffthebus.

For more on United Way of Bucks County, 413 Hood Blvd., Fairless Hills, visit uwbucks.org or call 215–949–1600. ••

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com