When Hunger Intensifies in Pennsylvania, the Soup Brigade Mobilizes

GOOD NEWS NETWORK
August 7th, 2020

When New Yorker Julie Snarski first moved to the picturesque community on the Delaware River, she felt like she had wandered onto a television set. From Yardley’s charming downtown, with buildings dating back to the 18th century, to St. Andrew’s Parish, the beautiful Episcopal church next to a tree-lined pond and historic graveyard, it’s easy to see why Snarski had trouble believing the town near Trenton, New Jersey was real.

Not only is Yardley, Pennsylvania real—it’s really kind, too, and its been named one of America’s 50 Nicest Places by Reader’s Digest.

For nearly four decades, on the third Sunday of every month, St. Andrew’s parishioners have been meeting in the church parish house and assembling meals for elderly and shut-in residents of the five-county Philadelphia area.

The coronavirus ended their proud 37-year streak. But church members figured out a way to continue their essential service, just as the need skyrocketed.

Caring for Friends, the organization that distributes the meals, came up with the idea for the parishioners to make meals in their homes. They enlisted neighbors to help, and pretty soon the volunteers were cranking out 1,000 meals and 400 containers of soup each week—almost ten times more food than before.

“I’ve been impressed how this seed of an idea has taken root,” says Snarski, who nominated Yardley as the Nicest Place in America.

“There was all of this passion and energy around feeding people and food justice, so we thought, What else could we do?,” says the Reverend Hilary Greer. “We got inspired after learning that 40 percent of America’s produce in World War II came from victory gardens in backyards and at churches. I thought, What if we did that here?”

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They couldn’t come together to plant a community garden in one place, so they created a community garden throughout the community. Anybody who wanted to join in came to
St. Andrew’s to pick up seedlings to plant at home. As the tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, and basil came in, the home gardeners brought the bounty to the church to be distributed to area food banks including the Bucks County Housing Group and the Interfaith Food Alliance, also located in Bucks County.

St. Andrew’s is also educating its largely White parish and community about racism, with training and discussion sessions every Sunday after church via Zoom. (The training and discussion sessions will occur every Sunday via Zoom in July.)

“We’re a White, wealthy suburb,” Rev. Greer says. “We need to learn all of the ways that racial injustice fuels criminal injustice, and injustice in the educational system. Until people get how all this is interconnected, they’re never going to understand why all of this is happening.

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“We’re going to have conversations that go places that are uncomfortable, it’s how we grow. We will show up to listen, and bring our whole selves to the conversation. We will be in it for the long haul,” says Rev. Greer, “not just while the protests are happening.”

Need more positive stories and updates coming out of the COVID-19 challenge? For more uplifting coverage, click here.

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