From weddings and church services, to concerts and marathons, countless events have either been postponed or downright canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But when it comes to helping locals meet basic needs, United Way of Bucks County is making sure the show goes on.
Currently, the organization is celebrating its eighth annual Bucks Knocks Out Hunger event – a countywide drive that provides food pantries with much-needed funds and non-perishables. After raising $90,000 last year, the goal for 2020 is $100,000.
“We’re being optimistic going into this,” said event organizer Tim Philpot. “The need is tremendous right now, but I think people are aware of that and so, we believe that the generosity will be tremendous as well.”
Typically, BKO Hunger concludes with a large-scale, high-energy, meal-packing event at Bucks County Community College, during which dozens of volunteers package donated items to be delivered to the pantries.
Since this setting does not allow for social distancing, BKO Hunger announced an alternative.
“We have decided, instead of doing a mass meal-packing event, to do a massive countywide food drive,” Philpot said. “We’re going to make it a drive-thru, no-touch dropoff. People will put food in the trunks of their cars or in the beds of their trucks. They stay in their car, pop the trunk and a volunteer will unload the food.”
Those wishing to participate in the dropoff event, set for Saturday, June 20, from 9 a.m. to noon, can stop by any of the four designated locations: Neshaminy Mall, 707 Neshaminy Mall, Bensalem; Bucks County Community College, 275 Swamp Road, Newtown; YMCA of Bucks County, 2500 Lower State Road, Doylestown; or St. Luke’s University Health Network Upper Bucks Campus, 3000 John Fries Highway, Quakertown.
“We really would encourage people to give things like shelf-stable milk, low-salt canned vegetables, no-sugar-added juices, proteins like beans, nuts. We encourage people to give as much healthy food as possible,” Philpot said. “Canned tuna and canned chicken is always welcome.”
Once collected, the food donations will be taken to United Way of Bucks County’s new HELP Center in Bristol Borough, where everything will be sorted and distributed to pantries.
Additionally, monetary donations are now being accepted online. These contributions will have a tri-fold use.
“It will allow us to provide funds to the Bucks County Opportunity Council so they can purchase the items that food pantries don’t get donated very often, like eggs and cheese. Those are the things that are usually in great demand and short supply,” said Philpot. “Another part will go to Rolling Harvest Food Rescue, which we’ve partnered with every year since this began. They will use the funds to purchase and provide extra local produce to food pantries. Some of the money will support the Fresh Connect free farmers market that we do in partnership with several other organizations.”
Additionally, for the first time, a portion of the funds will support the home delivery of food to low-income, homebound seniors who cannot safely shop for themselves during COVID-19.
Also new this year, United Way of Bucks County put together ideas for themed food boxes that can be created as a family activity.
“If the family wanted to get together and do a protein box, there’s a whole list of proteins that they could go and put in the box,” Philpot said. “We have one that’s a box of things specific to seniors, so they could include breakfast cereals, softer foods, a box of tissues, things like that. We’re encouraging families to do this together and decorate the box as an activity.”
Despite some major alterations to the initiative, Philpot said he’s confident that residents will once again don their invisible boxing gloves and battle local hunger.
“I’m very optimistic that the people of Bucks County will come out and support it. I believe the BKO brand is strong. We’ve been around for eight years now and even if they can’t volunteer, I’m sure people are going to be interested in helping to support it,” he said. “The circumstances are challenging, but we’re still excited to do the project. It’s one of my favorites of the year.”
To make a donation and for more information, visit uwbucks.org/bkohunger. Online donations will be accepted until the $100,000 goal is met.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org