Every Thursday from 3-5 p.m., St. Philip’s Episcopal Church (stphilipsnewhope.org) hosts a mobile food pantry in its parking lot at 10 Chapel Road, New Hope.
That’s thanks to a partnership with the Bucks County Housing Group (bchg.org) that began last March — and somehow fitting for a church whose patron saint is associated with feeding people.
“We’re seeing about 30 people each Thursday right now,” said the Very Rev. Michael R. Ruk, rector of St. Philip’s, better known as Michael. “That’s just a small portion of the actual need in our community, where a lack of affordable housing and high prices are forcing too many people to make impossible choices or even leave, including people who have lived here for decades.”
Lindsay Troyer, Bucks County Housing Group (BCHG) Community Food Program Manager, said affordability is just one part of a two-part problem.
“Transportation is a huge issue in our area,” she said, noting that many clients would have to catch a bus or walk to a grocery store if they wanted more healthful choices — then haul all of their groceries home the same way. “Is it any wonder that people walk to the nearest convenience store to get food for themselves and their families?”
Some don’t even have that option. Hence, BCHG’s mobile-market program, first championed by Troyer’s predecessor Madelaine Burgess. The program has since grown to two regular sites and a second van, the latter courtesy of the food-rescue nonprofit Philabundance (philabundance.org). Many of the mobile markets’ clients — like many of the clients at BCHG’s stationary pantries in Langhorne and Doylestown Township — are immigrants and live in all different settings across the county: urban, rural and suburban. In the year following the launch of its pilot program in March 2022, BCHG’s mobile market received more than 1,000 unique visits.
The need has only grown. Due to inflation, falling donations and a delay in state grants, however, inventory isn’t currently keeping pace. Troyer says BCHG’s vision is for mobile markets operating once or twice a day, every day, across Bucks County. But the logistics involved in food distribution are enormous, and very dependent on a group of experienced, dedicated volunteers to supplement the efforts of a small paid staff.
Happily, such volunteers already exist at BCHG’s two stationary pantries. More are needed, though, along with increased donations, grants and awareness — both of the problem of food insecurity and the opportunities that exist for people who, through no fault of their own, find themselves unsure where their next meal is coming from.
“Food is political: who has access, who doesn’t,” said Troyer, who has a master’s degree in food and farm policy from Delaware Valley University. “Once you know the impact of our current food system on people and the environment, it’s hard not to know.”
Ruk is pleased for St. Philip’s to do its part in spreading the word — and the abundance. The church has had a well-used mini-pantry in its parking lot since the early days of the pandemic, when demand at area food pantries increased five-fold; now the mini-pantry acts as a billboard for the Thursday mobile market as well. Ruk thinks allowing people to choose their own food and the farmers-market-type vibe are critical. “It’s not just about filling stomachs,” he said. “People need to know they are respected and valued.”
Troyer agrees. “Watching the people who come to our markets, I’m struck by the resilience,” she said. “Just humbled every day.”
To volunteer with or donate to the Bucks County Housing Group, contact Lindsay Troyer at 732-552-5067 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about St. Philip’s outreach efforts, contact Michael Ruk at 215-862-5782 or email@example.com.