The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently awarded a $1 million grant to Philabundance.
The majority of the grant will be applied to a new community food center Philabundance plans to open in Chester.
The center will address food access inequality and provide Chester residents with access to food staples on a regular and reliable basis while giving customers a not-for-profit retail shopping experience.
The city of Chester has been without a grocery store for more than 10 years. Philabundance’s community food center will address food access inequality by delivering reliable access to food staples, including fresh produce, through a non-profit retail shopping experience. The food center will offer the lowest prices possible as well as some food free of charge.
“Robert Wood Johnson awarded Philabundance with a $1 million grant to support and improve the hunger relief system in the Delaware Valley because we have great confidence in the organization’s ability to effectively address food insecurity,” said program officer for Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Susan Mende. “The food center project in Chester is an innovative and systemic model to improve food access in a community that has experienced food inequality for far too long.”
Philabundance has been serving the residents of Chester for more than 20 years and provides food to 12 member agencies in the city, 10 of which are food pantries. The food center will be a supplement to the agencies that already help those in need of food assistance. The food pantries that help make up the hunger safety net of agencies need more support to combat the rising numbers of people in need.
Agency capacity building is a top priority for Philabundance, to help strengthen the hunger safety net by providing more resources to its network. In addition to $800,000 for the food center, The Robert Wood Johnson grant includes $100,000, which will be used by Philabundance to help network agencies expand their distribution and the amount of food they can distribute into the community. The last $100,000 will be used for Philabundance’s general operating costs.
Chester is one of the 35 food deserts in the Delaware Valley, according to the USDA’s food desert locator.
Mari Gallagher of MG Research defines a food desert as a large, contiguous area with poor access to mainstream grocers. Chester is also part of Pennsylvania’s First Congressional District, the fourth hungriest district in the United States according to the Food Research and Action Center’s 2011, Food Insecurity Survey.
In July of 2010, Philabundance surveyed 398 individuals, modeled after the USDA Food Security survey, and found 54 percent of Chester residents stated it was too far to travel for nutritious foods.
About more than half of Chester residents live at 200 percent of the poverty line according to the American Community Survey from 2008 to 2010.
“Everyone has a basic right to have access to dependable, affordable food staples without having to travel too far to get them,” said president and executive director of Philabundance Bill Clark. “The increasing need and decreasing food donations demonstrates that we can’t solely focus on emergency food assistance. The food center is a new model that will provide reliable access to food every day. Philabundance is thrilled that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation sees the value in this project and awarded generous support to help fund the initiative.”
The food center project requires $4.5 million to open.
Philabundance is under contract for a building located in the west end of Chester — a convenient spot for many residents and close to public transportation.
Philabundance will renovate the vacant portion of the building and create 20 to 25 new jobs in Chester and hire from the community whenever possible. The Food Center will be 13,000 sq. ft. with 8,300 sq. ft. used as space for the sales floor.
The store is expected to be clean, well-lit, attractive, convenient and friendly. Philabundance will be working with community groups and social service organizations to provide services that are needed by the community.
Delaware County Council and the County Department of Intercommunity Health Coordination (ICH) remind all residents about the importance of getting an annual flu shot by launching its annual flu prevention campaign.
The fall campaign includes, a detailed listing of flu shot clinics throughout the county, a flu prevention video, clinics at various libraries, extensive public education and a free Walk-In Flu Clinic.
The clinic will be held on Thursday, Oct. 27 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Tinicum firehouse in Essington.
This clinic replaces the drive-thru clinic that has been held in previous years. Vaccines will be given to all residents age 4 and older. People will be asked to complete a brief screening to determine if they are allergic to eggs, or have ever had a reaction to a flu shot. People are also asked to bring a canned good or non-perishable food item to be donated at the walk-in flu shot clinic.
“Receiving the flu vaccine is the first and most important step in preventing the flu and decreasing the risk of severe flu-related illnesses,” said Tom McGarrigle, councilman of Delaware County. “Each year, in the United States, 200,000 people are hospitalized due to complications from the flu and 36,000 people due from the flu and related complications. We want to ensure that Delaware County residents stay healthy.”
The flu season usually occurs from fall through early spring. The peak of flu season has occurred anywhere from late November through March. The overall health impact of the flu, including infections, hospitalizations and deaths, varies from year to year.
“Everyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated against the flu, and sufficient supplies of vaccine are now available,” said George Avetian, senior medical advisor of Delaware County. “People at the greatest risk of serious flu complications include young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart and chronic lung disease and individuals age 65 and older. We recommend that everyone seek a flu vaccination from their family physician, a public flu shot clinic, or their pharmacy.”
The 2011–2012 vaccine will protect against three strains of influenza: A virus (subtype H3N2), an influenza B virus and the H1N1 virus that emerged in 2009 to cause a pandemic.
It is estimated that 166 million doses of flu vaccine will be produced this year, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In addition to immunization, there are everyday preventative measures that inhibit the spread of influenza virus, including frequent hand-washing with antibacterial soap, the proper disposal of tissues, and if people are sick with flu–like illness, the CDC recommends that they stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone.
For more information on the flu prevention program, visit www.co.delaware.pa.us.
Delaware County Community College (DCCC) was recently recognized as a leader in the national student completion movement Achieving the Dream, a national non-profit that helps 3.5 million community college students stay in school and earn a college certificate or degree.
“The work of improving student success is very difficult, critically important and urgent,” said William Trueheart, president and CEO of Achieving the Dream. “Delaware County Community College has carefully analyzed student outcomes and has implemented sustained positive student-centered changes. They deserve enormous recognition for their focus on equity and excellence, and for their extraordinary contributions to their communities and our nation.”
DCCC was one of 23 institutions designated as a 2011 Leader College. DCCC achieved Leader College status by raising graduation rates and closing achievement gaps. Achieving the Dream institutions that have met high standards of practice and performance are recognized as “Achieving the Dream Leader Colleges.”
Every new Leader College has pioneered promising practices and policies to help more students succeed including college readiness programs, mandatory new student orientation, student success courses, developmental course redesign, curriculum redesign, cooperative learning, learning communities and intensive and individualized advising.
In addition to being a Leader College, DCCC has also shown three years of sustained student success on at least one of the following measures of performance: course completion, advancement from remedial to credit-bearing courses, completion of college-level math and English courses, term-to-term and year-to-year retention, and completion of certificates or degrees.
“We are excited to be recognized as a Leader College,” said Dr. Virginia Carter, provost of DCCC. “Since we began our relationship with the Achieving the Dream organization, student success became a college priority that involved everyone. Initiatives and processes to help each student move towards his/her educational goal are integrated into the fabric of the college — from fiscal planning to hiring and program development. The recognition is a tribute to the dedication of our faculty, staff and communities.
“Our mission has always been to help all students achieve their dream. It’s about raising the bar for everybody to be able to succeed and then closing the gap. If there is some defining factor about a group not succeeding, we have to then figure out a way to help them succeed.”
DCCC was selected to participate in Achieving the Dream in 2006 by a national panel made up of community college experts. Since then, the college has increased fall-to-spring retention from 68 percent in 2007 to 73 percent in 2011.
This improvement is associated with a combination of interventions including English conferencing, supplemental instruction, JumpStart Math, Academy for College Excellence, reading/counselor pairings, new student orientation and mentoring.
In honor of Veterans Day, Delaware County rededicated its Delaware County Veterans Affairs Department office, now located on the ground floor of the Government Center in Media.
The office will feature, military displays, upgraded veteran affairs services and outreach established to help veterans access benefits and programs to which they are entitled.
The Veterans Affairs Department has been enhanced with a new computer management system, a new outreach liaison, a redesigned website and a display of historic military items.
“We have introduced a Veterans Information Management System, to assist veterans,” said county council chairman Jack Whelan. “The VIMS system helps us maintain vital information of veteran clients, preparing computer-generated forms, extracting data to assist in filing claims and other forms, tracking actions and maintaining data.”
An upgrade of the County’s veteran’s website provides links for county, state and federal programs, information about other programs and links for forms and publications. The Veterans Affairs webpage can be accessed on the Delaware County website. Veterans outreach seminars are also being conducted by the new Veterans Affairs liaison, Ralph Galati, a Vietnam veteran and former Prisoner of War.
The Veterans Affairs Office features a display of articles on loan from the Pennsylvania Veterans Museum in Media. Items on display date from as far back as the Spanish-American War of 1898 and includes World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam and up to the present time.
Also on display in the lobby is Armed Services Tribute Board which features photographs of Delaware County residents who are currently serving in hostile areas in the world such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Any visitor who enters the Government Center lobby is greeted by these tributes to those serving in the military today and to those who served in all our nation’s wars, even those remembered only in history,” Whelan said.
In addition to the new office, Delaware County is also building on the Veteran Justice Initiative. The initiative mission is to connect veterans with treatment and support services through public and private resources, including the county Office of Human Services and the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
“We are seeing that veteran’s face a number of challenges and combat-related illnesses when they come home from the chaos and dangers of combat,” Whelan said. “We want to take a proactive approach with a specialized treatment court that can better meet the needs of our veterans.
“We are grateful to our veterans for putting their lives on the line to protect the liberties we enjoy here at home and it is important for us to connect veterans with the treatment and support services they might need in all areas, including criminal justice,” he added. “There are benefits to the individual and to the community in improving lives and reducing criminal costs.”
As Delaware County food pantries continue to report a dire need to stock their shelves, Delaware County Council kicked off the annual Thanksgiving Food Drive, marking its 10th anniversary.
This year, the collection goal was upped to 13,000 pounds of food. County Council, the County Department of Human Services, Office of Behavioral Health (OBH), and the County Department of Intercommunity Health (ICH) will once again join forces with Magellan Behavioral Health of PA to collect non-perishable food items to distribute to families in need.
Providers involved with local food assistance programs continue to report an increasing demand for donations during challenging economic times.
Members of the public are invited to join county employees in placing donations in collection boxes, which are placed in the Government Center lobby, outside the Sheriff’s office in the Courthouse, the Fronefield Building, which houses court services, Fair Acres main lobby (building 8) and Detention Center both located in Middletown, the County Office of Services for the Aging (COSA) in Eddystone, Children and Youth Services (CYS) office in Chester, and the Human Services office in Upper Darby.
The Delaware County 911 Center, 360 N. Middletown Road, Middletown, has been added as a drop off location.
Delaware County Council and OBH have partnered with Magellan for 10 years to coordinate the food drive.
In 2011, the Intercommunity Health staff joined the County team, and helped boost the Food Drive collection to a record 12,053 pounds of food, which was dispersed to needy families for holiday meals. After last year’s record donation, this year’s goal is to collect and distribute 13,000 pounds of food.
In addition, Bill Chambers of OBH and Julie Brown of Magellan continue their traditional wager, which states that whoever collects the lesser amount of food must deliver their collected items wearing a large, colorful turkey costume.
County Councilman Dave White announced the start of the 2012 Food Drive at the Oct. 10 County Council meeting, encouraging participation by employees and residents doing business at the Courthouse, Government Center and all designated County Offices.
“The need for food assistance is greater now than ever. In this tough economy, it is crucial that we continue to reach out to our families in need,” said White, Council’s liaison to Human Services. “Many families have had to tighten their belts when it comes to food budgets. Those of us who are able need to extend a helping hand to those who are not as fortunate.”
Sister Sandra Lyons of the Bernardine Center, one of five Chester food pantries associated with the DelCo Interfaith Food Assistance Network (DIFAN), said the number of families seeking food assistance continues to climb in this weak economy.
“Many families are struggling because of under employment and low wages, and have already spent their ‘rainy day funds’ leaving them with no safety net to fall back on,” Sandra said.
Serving as the DIFAN director, Sister Sandra stated that in 2011-2012, DIFAN food pantries provided 1.3 million meals to Delaware County families, an increase of 200,000 meals over the prior year.
“During that time, the number of families seeking DIFAN food assistance increased 10.7 percent. In many cases, families that come to us are no longer just supplementing their limited food supply; they are coming to meet their family’s basic daily food needs,” she said.
Already in 2012-2013, Sister Sandra said that food pantry staff is seeing new individuals who lost the safety of their General Assistance (GA), which was recently deleted from the state’s budget. The County’s food purchase budget also took a hit this year when the State’s Department of Agriculture reduced the State Food Purchase Program budget by 20 percent.
“So, while the number of families in need has increased, there has been a significant reduction in resources available to meet their needs,” she said.
Delaware County Council, OBH, ICH and Magellan are co-sponsors of the 2012 Food Drive, in conjunction with Family and Community Service in Media and the agency’s DelCo Interfaith Food Assistance Network (DIFAN).
Suggested items for donation include canned meats (chicken, tuna, chicken and dumplings), boxed or canned side dishes, peanut butter, jelly, unsweetened cereal, infant formula, coffee, tea, canned tomatoes or sauce and canned fruits and soups, especially main dish soups with meat.
Individuals who want to make donations or families who want information about the DIFAN food pantries can call Family and Community Service, at (610) 566-7540. For more information about the 2012 Delaware County Food Drive, contact OBH at (610) 713-2365.
Crozer Keystone Health Systems and the Delaware Valley chapter of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) received a grant to produce an educational play about hand washing.
The play, “Hand Washing is Fun,” was recently presented to students from Elwyn, a school for children with intellectual disabilities in the area.
The chapter was one out of seven nationwide chapters selected to receive a $2,500 grant. The grant celebrates APIC’s 25th anniversary and APIC’s participation in International Infection Prevention Week.
The grant was created to encourage greater chapter participation and to promote new and creative ideas for raising public awareness about infection prevention.
“The play is aimed to educate students about how to prevent the spread of infection, mainly through hand washing,” said Christine Young, infection control coordinator at Crozer-Chester Medical Center. “The actors musically incorporated examples, such as when people should sanitize their hands vs. washing them, and techniques about how to properly cover up a cough. The play interactive included singing, acting, music, costumes and special lighting. Musical theater enables the audience to become part of the show. This unique event, and the lessons learned, will be remembered and hopefully practiced with a smile.”
The idea to produce a play was inspired by the chapter’s success with one their previous campaigns, Wash Your Hands.
“Wash Your Hands” is a video that shows children how to properly wash their hands. Since the program was a success with elementary school children, Crozer Keystone Health System employees felt that it would be beneficial to create a similar campaign for children with intellectual disabilities.
APIC’s Delaware Valley chapter partnered with Giruzzi Productions to create an original script and music for the play.
“The play on hand washing is a very creative way to engage our kids in the proper way of being healthy,” said Dominique Patrick, a mother of a student who attends Elwyn. “With kids today you have to be very cautious because they touch everything and a lot of times germs are passed from one person to another. I think Crozer Keystone Health System did an excellent job of thinking of a new way to help kids understand the importance of their personal hygiene, but most importantly washing their hands.”
She stated a lot of people do not know how to properly wash their hands or how to prevent themselves from getting the flu.
“What better way to start of the new year than to be healthy and teaching our kids how to be healthy, and I truly believe that this play is a start in teaching kids how to do that,” Patrick said.
Beef jerky, breakfast bars, socks, powdered drink mix, magazines and holiday greetings – anything that might make life more comfortable for service members overseas were collected by Delaware County Council and turned over to the Herbert W. Best VFW Post 928 to be shipped to troops through the VFW Post’s “We Care” program.
County Council and county employees collected cartons of items that were turned over to Thomas Brown, immediate past district commander for the VFW, and Nick Constantine, program coordinator for Herbert W. Best VFW Post 928, Ridley Township, at the Dec. 5 County Council meeting.
“We ship packages to servicemen and women in Afghanistan the third Thursday of each month,” said Brown. “You don’t read about our troops as much in the news anymore and I just wish the public would remember these guys.”
At the Delaware County Government Center, the departments of Veterans Affairs and Public Relations have collected and mailed hundreds of holiday cards and gifts to service members as part of the Armed Services Tribute Board initiative.
This year, County Council partnered with the VFW post, which uses monetary donations collected during Poppy Month in May to cover the mailing costs. Volunteers collect and pack up the donations, fill out the U.S. Customs slips, and mail the packages overseas.
“We get names of troop members from people in the community,” Constantine said. “We also send cartons to chaplains and medics, and to the U.S. hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, where the service personnel wounded in Afghanistan are treated before coming home.”
Council Vice Chair Mario J. Civera Jr., a U.S. Air Force veteran, thanked the VFW members for their generous efforts.
“Anything we can do to help the soldiers who are making a sacrifice to protect our freedom, anything to help them be more comfortable, this Council is committed to doing,” Civera said.
Constantine said the Herbert Best Post started the “We Care” project several years ago in partnership with a young woman who wanted to support soldiers in Iraq.
From January 2009 until November 2012, the Herbert Best Post has sent 436 boxes, weighing 9,841 pounds, and costing $6,303 in postage, to local troops overseas. Constantine said 678 volunteers have donated 1,550 hours to the “We Care” program.
“It is extremely rewarding to work with people who give their time and effort to support our soldiers,” Constantine said. “The soldiers become our family and we receive wonderful thank you letters from them.”
Constantine said people interested in donating items for the care packages or volunteering their time to package the donations can contact him at (610) 544-1066.
Vice Chair Civera reminded people that any residents with a friend or family members from Delaware County who is serving overseas is invited to post their photo on the Delaware County Armed Services Tribute Board. For information contact the county Veterans Office or Public Relations at (610) 891-4931.
After months of rhetoric, television advertisements and campaign rallies, Delaware County residents stood in long lines on Tuesday to vote for presidential candidates President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney.
Delaware County’s 397,773 registered voters had the chance to choose candidates ranging from president to state office. Of the 397,773 registered voters, 176,252 are Republicans and 174,890 are Democrats, which leaves 46,631 registered with other parties or without affiliation.
“One of the first things that I did on Tuesday was vote,” said Boothwyn resident Wendell Sammons. “My kids came into town Monday night, so that they could vote here on Tuesday. We all want a better future and economy. I was pleased with what President Barack did during his first time and I’m looking forward to him building on that.”
In September, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson blocked Pennsylvania’s controversial voter identification law from taking effect during this year’s election.
The law would have required voters to show a photo ID at the polls. Despite the ruling on the voter ID law; there have been issues at polling places in Chester.
“A lot of polling places were telling people that they need to have their ID,” said Chester Democratic Committee chairperson Livia H. Smith. “Some places were even turning people away. The law in Pennsylvania states that they can ask residents for ID, but you can’t turn them away. We have been helping the residents with this by advising them and having them call a number to report this. Despite the obstacles, it has not stopped the residents for fighting for their right to vote.”
Both campaigns have assembled legal teams to leap into action at any hint of voting irregularities, like voting machine malfunctions, allegations of voter intimidation and challenges to the legitimacy of absentee and “provisional” votes.
“The legal teams were set up as a precautionary measure; we wanted to make sure everyone’s right to vote would be exercised and no one would be turned away from the polls,” said Sandi Townsend of Organizing for America. “There have been so many different issues surrounding this particular election. Our job was not only to get people to show up at the polls, but to also keep them informed on everything. The only way to make sure everything goes smoothly during the election process is to have things in place if something does go wrong.”
Staging location director of Organizing for America Delores McLamb believes that this presidential election isn’t just about the issues of the country, but also the youth needing to know about their history.
“A lot of our youth don’t really understand the importance of this election or the issues that we as a society are facing,” McLamb said. “We as parents and a society it’s our job to not only keep the youth informed, but also ourselves. People can stand in line for 10 hours for materialistic things, but they also need to be willing to stand in line for what they believe.
“In order to make history, we have to keep informing the youth about history. If you succumb to what everyone else is doing, then they will keep doing it. The best way to fight back is through voting - it is your constitutional right.”
Recognizing the urgent need for food assistance, Delaware County will be teaming up with local food agencies throughout the region to host a hunger conference. Delaware County is part of the First Congressional District where hunger issues rank second in the United States.
The conference will be held on March 9, at Widener University in Chester from 8:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. Established in 2008 by Delaware County Council, the goal of the conference is to make residents in the community aware of food resources in the community and to give people the skills to advocate for these resources.
“Hunger and food insecurity is an unfortunate reality for some of our residents and we want to do everything we can to prevent any individual or family from wondering where their next meal is coming from,” said Dave White, councilman and Council’s liaison to the County Department of Human Services.
One of the organizations participating in the conference is the Office of Behavioral Health and the Department and the Delco Interfaith Food Assistance Network (DIFAN), a Family and Community Service agency that has 12 member food centers. In the 2010-2011 year, DIFAN centers distributed 1.3 million meals.
This year’s conference topics include finding hunger resources, eating healthy with limited resources, advocacy, starting a food cupboard and urban gardening projects. Exhibits will be set up by Cityteam Ministries, the Coalition Against Hunger, Community Action Agency of Delaware County, Philabundance, and WIC.
“It is really disturbing to see the increase in need for food,” said Fran Alloway, conference organizer. “At Delaware County food banks, there has been a 30 percent increase in demand over last year. What we are continuing to do with this conference each year is to give local residents as much information as well as options on food assistance in Delaware County.
“We just want to be a tool in helping families across Delaware County and help assist them in any way that we can. This conference is a great step for us to get information out to public about food and how these organizations are here to assist them in any way that they need.”
Key speakers for the conference include Marina Barnett, DSW of Widener University, Dr. George K. Avetian, DO, Senior Medical Advisor of Delaware County, Ellen Teller, Esq. of the Food Research and Action Center, Sharon Ward of the PA Budget and Policy Center and Julie Zaebst, MSS, MLSP of the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger.
The conference is open to the public, but there is a special student registration and professional credits will be given to social workers, dieticians and nurses. For more information on the hunger conference call (610) 690-2655 or visit delaware.extension.psu.edu.
Potentially deadly drugs sit neglected in cabinets, officials say
Delaware County Council and District Attorney G. Michael Green are teaming up with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), county municipalities and 14 of the area’s police departments for the national “Take Back” drug event.
The initiative is a nationwide campaign that aims to collect potentially dangerous expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs and properly dispose of them.
The event is scheduled for Oct. 29 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at various locations throughout Delaware County.
Deaths caused by drugs have now topped traffic-related deaths. The rise in drug-related deaths is due in large part to an increase in overdoses from prescription drugs. This is the first time drugs have caused more deaths than motor vehicles since the government started tracking drug-related deaths in 1979, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
“The ‘Take Back’ initiative addresses a vital public safety and public health issue,” said Jack Whelan, councilman of Delaware County. “Many people are not aware that medicines that sit in home cabinets are at a high risk for misuse and abuse and their misuse can be deadly.”
Delaware County’s first event was held in September 2010. Delaware County collected 277.4 pounds of drugs. The second event was held in April and collected over 900 pounds of drugs. Nationwide, 4,000 state and local law enforcement agencies participated in these events, collecting and destroying more than 309 tons of pills.
Some of the collection sites for the event will include the Aldan Municipal Building, Brookhaven Municipal Center, Upper Darby High School, Sharon Hill Borough Hall, Springfield Township Building, Media Police Department, Nether Providence Police Station, and Eddystone Police Department at Lighthouse Hall.
The collection sites will anonymously accept both prescription and over-the-counter products that are solid in nature (tablets or capsules) with no questions asked.
However, any intravenous solutions, injectables, needles, or illegal substances such as marijuana or methamphetamine will not be accepted.
“Many residents do not know how to properly dispose of their unused medicine, often flushing them down the toilet or throwing them away, both potential safety and health hazards,” Whelan said. “The prescription drugs collected at the event will be burned at an undisclosed location. For the people who are unsure in what to do with their unused or expired medicine can also ask their physician or pharmacist how to dispose of unused prescription medications.”
The event will occur during Red Ribbon Week (Oct. 23-31), a drug prevention program initiative started in 1985, after a DEA agent, Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, was killed by drug traffickers in Mexico.
During Red Ribbon week, people wear red ribbons to show their commitment to creating a safe and drug-free society.
For more information on the event visit www.co.delaware.pa.us.