by Emily Brigham
Marley spent the entire day cooking and baking. She made cookies, muffins, casseroles, and much more – but she didn’t eat any of it! Instead, together with other student at Central Bucks West High School, she saw that it was dropped off at a local food pantry and given to needy families.
The Cooking for the Homeless Club at CB West was begun by Family and Consumer Science teacher Mrs. Nancy Phillips four years ago. She used to invite someone from the homeless shelter to come to her class and inform the students about the food pantry. She would then do a cooking lab, where they would cook food for the shelter. But due to recent budget cuts, she is no longer able to do that as part of the curriculum, and the idea for the food club was born.
Students who join the club donate $10. That money goes to the ingredients they will use and it lasts all year. Since the club started, about 40 students will show up on the third Wednesday of the month. They bake or cook anything they can freeze, particularly muffins and casseroles, and then drop it off for the families to choose from. Families with low incomes come once a week and pick from all the food that is available. Mrs. Phillips said that more families have been coming each year because of unemployment and the bad economy.
“Before the economy went bad it was 82 families and each family would come once a month, so it was around 320 people showing up,” she said. “Those people would come and pick out foods. My guess is now with the economy getting worse, it’s around 150 families. Many families go each week to the shelter.”
Before she chose to help out the local shelters, including Quakertown, Mrs. Phillips was originally going to use the food CB West students made to help out the shelters in Philadelphia. But she discovered that there was a great need in the local community. The local shelters do not have the resources that the city shelters do. Mrs. Phillips hopes that more students will join and also thinks that it will be a good learning experience.
“Students will learn about the price of food, like we shouldn’t put that in because it will cost too much. They will learn about nutrition and how we should supply the families with nutritious foods. And compassion for people, so that when they are out of school, they still decide to volunteer to help somebody.”
CB West junior Cari Lamba heard about the club last year from Mrs. Phillips in cooking class. She is ready to start her first year with the club.
“I really like to volunteer and do a lot of community service work and since I was in cooking class last year, I really like to bake and cook. So, I figured it’s a good way to find something that I like and to help other people.”
There are a number of food pantries in Bucks County. They share the goal of ensuring that people in the county living in low income homes have plenty of access to food to meet their basic nutritional needs. In recent studies by Feeding America, in 2009, 50.2 million Americans lived in food insecure households: 33 million adults and 17.2 million children. Mrs. Phillips and her Cooking for the Homeless Club are doing their part to bring those numbers down, one casserole at a time.