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Lehigh Valley Community Foundation gives $50,000 to help the homeless and hungry

As published in The Morning Call

But while a meal at a soup kitchen or a bed in a homeless shelter can momentarily curb those insecurities, the hardest thing that homeless people struggle with is the intense feeling that their situation will never improve, said Brett Feldman, director of Street Medicine.

Street Medicine is a part of the Lehigh Valley Health Network and it works to provide primary health care to homeless people by setting up clinics at soup kitchens and homeless shelters, and by administering care to people living on the streets.

At Street Medicine, Feldman helps homeless people in the Lehigh Valley gain access to health care. He also frequently visits homeless camps throughout the area and administers care out of the pharmacy in the bed of his truck.

The work Feldman does is why he was one of the speakers at an event Wednesday that focused on local food and housing access.

Roughly 50 people attended the event, which was hosted by the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation at Second Harvest Food Bank of the Lehigh Valley and Northeastern PennsylvaniaSecond Harvest Food Bank just got a whole lot cooler

This year, as a part of its 50th anniversary celebration, the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation is awarding $300,000 in grants to organizations that focus on six areas — behavioral and mental health, cultural enrichment, food and housing access, environment and sustainability, human trafficking and veterans affairs.

On Wednesday evening, the foundation divvied up $50,000 in grant funding to five local organizations that specialize in food and housing access in the Lehigh Valley.

  • New Bethany Ministries in Bethlehem received $25,000 to renovate a two-story garage into a food pantry to expand its facility, which provides food and other services to the needy in the Lehigh Valley.

  • The School Sisters of Saint Francis in Bethlehem received $10,000 toward expanding its goals of feeding the hungry, caring for the Earth and building health communities.

  • Nurture Nature Center in Easton received $10,000 to expand a SNAP —supplemental nutrition assistance program — that would make fresh produce and healthy foods available to customers using food stamps.

  • Valley Youth House Committee, Inc. in Allentown received $2,500 to expand its inclusive housing for homeless LGBTQ teenagers in the Lehigh Valley.

  • Pinebrook Family Answers received $2,500 to fund its transitional residence program, which provides homeless women, often single mothers, in Allentown with an affordable and safe place to live.

"It was really hard, we wanted to give everyone $50,000," said Bernie Story, president and CEO of the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation. "Our grants are just the beginning. We also work to match donors to your proposals to continue expanding them."

Marc Rittle, co-founder of the Lehigh Valley Food Policy Council, was the other speaker Wednesday. He shared statistics on food insecurity and homelessness.

In the Lehigh Valley, 62,550 people are food insecure, 9 percent of the total population, Rittle said.

Food insecurity isn't about how convenient someone's next meal is; it means someone doesn't "have access to healthy, nutritious and affordable food," Rittle said.

Rittle said his organizations would like both food insecurity and homelessness to be reduced by 50 percent in 2022.

The event included a tour of Second Harvest Food Bank, which was led by the food bank's operations manager, Jessica Dokachev.

The 65,000-square-foot facility sends food and hygiene products to more than 200 agencies across six counties. The food bank has two large warehouses and often holds a million pounds of food at a time, Dokachev said.

The facility has a large refrigerator and freezer, which has allowed the food bank to bring in more fresh produce and distribute a larger variety of healthy food, Dokachev said.

kwashburn@mcall.com

Twitter @kwashy1212

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Lehigh Valley Perspectives: Food & Housing Access