Two local nonprofits are joining forces to fight hunger in Philadelphia in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sunday Love Project and Sharing Excess have already made significant strides in curbing hunger throughout the city. But when opportunity struck, and a new space became available at 514 South St. in Queen Village, the two organizations decided to pool resources to take on a new project called “Share Love.”
The space was provided by Counter Culture, which planned to open up before the pandemic hit. With business on pause and left with an empty building, Counter Culture reached out to Sunday Love Project founder Margaux Murphy, who works through the Church of the Holy Trinity in Rittenhouse and focuses on serving meals to the homeless and opioid-afflicted population in Kensington. They called the right place.
“(Counter Culture) wasn’t able to actually open their doors for events on South Street,” Murphy said. “They reached out to me and said they’re stuck with this space and still paying rent. What can we do for you?”
Murphy’s next call was to Sharing Excess, an innovative student-run organization committed to repurposing food waste. The group, which works with colleges and universities, connects with grocery stores and restaurants to deliver healthy food excess to communities in need. More than 23,000 meals have been delivered since it launched in 2018.
“For us, joining forces to ‘Share Love’ feels like the perfect union,” said Evan Ehlers, founder of Sharing Excess. “Sharing Excess has always been about doing the most good and using our agility and partnerships in order to get food product to a distributor like Sunday Love, one who treats food service with an exceptional level of dignity and care, is just a fantastic combination. I am excited to see what we can achieve.”
As unemployment skyrockets and more people fall into food insecurity, residents who normally wouldn’t need help putting food on the table are finding themselves in helpless situations. Murphy said she wanted to create something that erases stereotypes and would make people feel more welcomed to accept help.
“This is not really specifically geared towards the homeless,” Murphy said. “This is more for restaurant workers who lost jobs or other people who are having a hard time because they are out of work. We’re trying to remove the stigma of asking for help and not make it a food bank.”
Murphy said the South Street location fits the trendy style of the avenue, and extra efforts will be made to help people feel more comfortable. Ice cream will be handed out to people waiting in line.
“We want it to feel a little more lively and not a downtrodden place to come for food,” Murphy said.
Sunday Love Project goes a step further. Aside from cooking and packaging the meals, it will initiate a ‘Love Letter’ campaign in which volunteer children make notes to be inserted into each food box.
“We want to show the community how much we care about them,” Murphy said. “Kids are making positive messages saying, ‘We care about you,’ to keep people going and help make them feel loved in the community.”
The site opened on May 9 and will welcome people of all ages twice a week. Food will be available for walk-in pick-up on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 3-5 p.m. The initial plan is to serve up to 150 prepared meals and 100 boxes each day. Strict use of PPE and temperature check protocols for volunteers will be in place in an elevated effort to protect community health. Sidewalk queueing guides will be utilized to maintain safe social distancing with food distribution directly from the building’s entrance. Counter Culture staff said they are happy to see their space being used for the community.
“We look forward to supporting our community for years to come by hosting great events,” said Amanda Sands, event manager with Counter Culture. “In the meantime, we’re thrilled our space can be used to support our neighbors in a meaningful way.”
Sharing Love is accepting food drive collections, unused gift cards and monetary donations. Residents can also help local businesses by sponsoring a restaurant to provide meals.
More information can be found at a newly launched website, http://www.sharing-love.com/.