The pandemic has reinforced and exacerbated many of the inequities in our society. Long before COVID-19 swept through the city, Philadelphia community organizations worked to serve residents in need, but the situation is more challenging now. At the same time, many Philadelphians are wondering, “How can I help?” One way is by supporting the local food system.
The sheer amount of need in this time of crisis is staggering, but there are opportunities for individuals to have an impact. Around the country, mutual aid groups have formed to keep neighbors fed and deliver groceries to people at risk; new and established groups are showing up to give out food; and citizens are volunteering with food banks and pantries. In this guide, Eater Philly has collected and organized resources for where to give, what to give, and how to volunteer in and around the Philadelphia area.
Editors have done their best to vet the organizations and opportunities included here, but it’s worth reaching out directly for more information, using the links provided.
Do you have a food organization or food-related project that you’d like to submit? Email the information to Eater Philly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit Eater.com for more resources on how to help national action campaigns.
Mutual Aid Groups
Mutual aid refers to grassroots efforts that support people in need outside of official government programs and licensed nonprofits. At its simplest, it means neighbors helping neighbors. Mutual aid organizers create networks of volunteers and recipients by building online spreadsheets and digital intake forms. Here are options in the Philly area:
Mutual Aid Philly: This volunteer-run group offers cash assistance, grocery shopping, prescription pickup, masks, prepared meals, emotional support, transportation, and other services. Sign up for assistance or to volunteer or donate here.
Mama-Tee Community Fridges: Apparel company Mama-Tee operates community fridges at 635 W. Girard Avenue, 2400 Coral Street, 915 Spring Garden Street, 2821 W. Girard Avenue, 312 N. 39th Street, and 1255 E. Palmer Street. Donate or sign up to volunteer here.
The People’s Kitchen: Every weekday, volunteer chefs come to the People’s Kitchen, run by Cristina Martinez and Ben Miller of South Philly Barbacoa and the 215 People’s Alliance, to cook 200 meals for those in need. The meals are distributed through the Church of the Redeemer Baptist in Point Breeze, Puentes de Salud, UNITE HERE Philadelphia, SEAMAAC, and the Pennsylvania Domestic Workers Alliance. Donate or get more information here.
Philadelphia Community Fridge: This group stocks two South Philly community fridges: one powered by a doctor’s office at 1229 S. Sixth Street and one at the Bok building at 1901 S. 9th Street.
The Poor People’s Army: A mutual aid group that serves the needs of “poor and homeless people,” including food donations, errands, and more. Sign up to volunteer here and/or get help by texting 215-869-4753 or emailing email@example.com.
These organizations are looking for people to help sort, pack, distribute, and deliver groceries or meals to seniors, immunocompromised recipients, and other community members in need:
Broad Street Ministry: This Avenue of the Arts institution used to call on volunteers for its sit-down meal service for those experiencing hunger, but it’s transitioned to takeout meals during COVID-19. The organization still needs volunteers to help with kitchen prep and a variety of other services. Learn more.
Everybody Eats: A group of Philly chefs host this traveling food drive that lands in different neighborhoods to give out free meals and essentials. Follow Everybody Eats on social media to see where the next one will take place and sign up to volunteer.
Jewish Relief Agency: This organization uses volunteers to distribute pantry staples and fresh produce to 6,000 low-income people in the region. The food is kosher, but clients do not need to be Jewish to receive assistance. Sign up to volunteer.
Philabundance: Philly’s hunger relief powerhouse distributes more than 24 million pounds of food a year to those in need with the help of a robust volunteer program. Get involved.
Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission: This century-old organization serves those experiencing homelessness in Philadelphia by providing three meals a day to anyone in need. Get involved.
Sunday Love Project: Those experiencing hunger can find meals three days a week at Church of the Holy Trinity in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood. The kitchen staff is known for transforming extra food and unusual ingredients into delicious meals for their guests. Volunteers are needed in a variety of roles. Sign up here.
Food Banks, Food Rescues, and Distribution Organizations
City of Philadelphia: The city offers several ways anyone in need can access free food. All Philly residents are eligible; no ID or proof of income is required. Learn more.
Food Connect: This innovative outfit uses technology to help food rescue groups collect unused food from a variety of sources and donate it to local shelters and food banks. Learn more.
Fooding Forward: This nonprofit arranges for extra food from hotels, restaurants, farms, and other companies to get to local shelters and other groups that can put it to good use. Learn more.
The Food Trust: With a commitment to connecting those in need with healthy food, the Food Trust operates farmers markets that incentivize Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits recipients to purchase fresh produce. Customers get extra dollars to spend on fruits and vegetables when they use shop at participating markets. Learn more.
Philabundance: Philabundance has been around since 1984. It distributes more than 24 million pounds of food a year, much of it donated by food drives and grocery stores. Use the website to find a location where free food is available.
Philly Food Rescue: This group has a network of volunteers who will quickly pick up extra food from stores, restaurants, caterers, and farmers markets and deliver it to nonprofits, schools, and medical centers. Get involved.
Puentes de Salud: This organizations works to connect Latino immigrants in the Philadelphia area to food resources, including referrals to existing distribution sites and delivery to those who cannot leave the house. Donate, volunteer, or access services here.
SEAMAAC: This immigrant and refugee support organization provides several services, including partnering with the city, the Share Food Program, and Philabundance to hand out more than 800 boxes of food every week. Learn more.
Soup Kitchens, Pantries, and Shelters
Broad Street Ministry: While this long-running institution’s seated meal program is on hold, lunch to-go is still available each weekday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Learn more.
Mitzvah Food Program: This organization offers a few food pantry locations at Jewish institutions, but anyone in need is welcome. Many appreciate Mitzvah’s system, which lets guests choose their food items. Volunteers can help in the pantries or make deliveries. Learn more about volunteering or donating or find a pantry.
Share Food Program: Free, healthy food is available through this long-running organization’s network of dozens of pickup sites, plus home delivery for those who need it. Find a pickup site. Share can always use volunteers.
Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission: Those experiencing homelessness can find three meals a day and overnight shelter at the Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission at 302 N. 13th Street. Learn more.
Sunday Love Project: This group serves dinner on Sundays and Tuesdays and brunch on Mondays at Church of the Holy Trinity in Rittenhouse Square. Learn more.
Community Organizations Providing Food Access
Garces Foundation Food Pantry: In April, chef Jose Garces’ foundation began distributing boxes of food to Philadelphia’s immigrant communities. The organization now works with more than 200 families each week (there’s a waiting list to join). Learn more or donate here.
Step Up to the Plate: A collaboration between Broad Street Ministry, Prevention Point Philadelphia, SEAMAAC, Project Home, and the City of Philadelphia, Step Up to the Plate started operating outdoor meal sites at the beginning of the pandemic. With sites in Kensington, South Philly, and Center City, the group distributes 5,750 meals a week. Volunteers and monetary donations are needed. Learn more.
Everybody Eats: This chef-led group pops up in different neighborhoods with free food and household essentials for anyone in need. Follow along on Instagram to see when the next event will take place.
West Philly Bunny Hop: This newly formed group offers free food via walk-up distribution sites at 118 S. 36th Street and 2400 Coral Street. Learn more.
Gather Food Hall: This new pop-up from Little Giant Creative and Believe in Students is an outdoor food hall selling dishes for $10 or less from a rotating lineup of local restaurants, with a pay-what-you-can policy for students (just bring a student ID). It runs through November 20 on the 1000 block of Nectarine Street, off Spring Garden Street and behind music venue Union Transfer.
Worker and Restaurant Relief
Benefits Data Trust: Anyone looking to see what public benefits they’re eligible for (up to 19 in Philadelphia, including food, medication, help with utilities, and more) can call this organization’s hotline at 1-833-373-5868 (or 1-833-373-5869 for those outside of Philly).
Hospitality Assistance Response of PA (HARP): The Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association, which lobbies for the state’s hospitality industry, provides $250 grants to hospitality workers. It’s currently not taking new applications, but the organization is trying to raise more money for additional grants. Check the website to see if applications reopen.
Winterization Grants: Delivery service Doordash and the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association are providing $5,000 grants to Philly restaurants preparing outdoor seating areas for the cold months. Restaurant owners can apply online.
Eater is tracking the impact of the novel coronavirus on the local food industry. Have a story to share? Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.