Harvest Ministries isn’t your average food pantry.
Based out of Cornwells United Methodist Church, 2284 Bristol Pike in Bensalem, the initiative serves a whopping 400 families every week by providing nutritious meals, toiletries and more.
As COVID-19 unemployment continues, this number only continues to grow.
In an effort to assist Harvest in its mission to serve Bucks County and Northeast Philadelphia residents in need during these trying times, Bensalem Rotary members Marc Cohen and Michelle Benitez facilitated a $2,100 grant to the pantry. The funds came from the Philadelphia-area Rotary district and its former governor, Peter Mardinley. A check presentation was held at the church in February.
“They put together a program where they were going to give out $25,000 during COVID to the food banks,” said Cohen, who is also an assistant Rotary governor for parts of the Philadelphia region.
When tasked with finding a recipient for the money, Benitez and Cohen didn’t need to search for long.
“I can’t believe what they’re doing there [at Harvest Ministries]. They’re serving about 400 families a week. It’s unbelievable. And you’re talking families. So, if it’s a family of four, it’s really over 1,000 people a week,” said Cohen. “It’s a big operation. It helps a lot of people.”
Joanne Jordan, program coordinator for Harvest Ministries, said the pantry has gained a lot of recognition since its inception 25 years ago.
“When I first started working there [14 years ago], we did about maybe 60 families a week coming in to get food. Maybe around 200 to 250 families a week,” she said. “As of last year, we were doing probably around 375 to 400. Now, we’re doing about 2,000 families a month, so it’s grown exponentially over the past year.”
This surge in pantry participants was largely due to the pandemic.
“Some of the people that we have coming in will probably continue to be food pantry people, but they didn’t know that we were there. So now we’re actually on the map,” Jordan said.
A farmers market-style setup is offered in the Cornwells parking lot each Tuesday and Friday. Guests are asked to bring their own bags, boxes or carts, and wear a mask and practice social distancing as they select their items. This week, there was eggplant, yogurt, chicken and dairy products, the latter of which aren’t often found at most food banks.
On Thursdays, Harvest operates as a pantry, which is ideal for those who don’t want to wait in line, especially older people.
“They just come in and then zoom out the door,” said Jordan. “It’s a quick thing.”
Through Philabundance, Harvest Ministries is part of the Grocers Against Hunger program.
“They literally pair your pantry with a grocery store, and then you get anything that’s going out of code or that they have overstock on,” said Jordan, who said Harvest is fortunate to be linked with Sam’s Club, which provides mass quantities of items. “We have fresh fruit and vegetables every week, dairy products, feminine hygiene products and toiletries. We’re able to get some of them through the United Way of Bucks County. We’re hooked up with a lot of agencies where we get all kinds of stuff, not just the standard things like canned goods.”
Since Harvest receives the majority of its food at no cost, Jordan said the Rotary funds will be utilized for special items such as turkeys at Thanksgiving. Recently, donated money was used to purchase toothpaste after United Way gifted Harvest a large number of toothbrushes.
Currently, anyone living in Bucks County and neighboring Philadelphia is invited to stop by Harvest. The only light requirement is having some form of identification.
“It’s not crucial but they like to have that kind of thing,” said Jordan. “But right now with COVID, everybody’s qualified.”
Daily offerings and times are regularly posted at facebook.com/harvestministriesfoodpantry. Call 215-639-0436 for additional information.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at email@example.com