CHAMBERSBURG – Seven months since its debut, Franklin County MilitaryShare continues to see success as a free food distribution program serving Franklin County families with at least one member who has served, or is currently serving, in the armed forces.
The Franklin County Commissioners, through Franklin County Veterans Affairs and in partnership with the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, launched Franklin County MilitaryShare in May. From the start, the program exceeded expectations, providing fresh, nutritious food to 89 households during the first distribution event. Following the November distribution on Nov. 3, the program will have served 350 households and 760 individuals. Demand for the program continues to grow each month.
“We thought we were going to start small, like other MilitaryShare distribution sites. I thought we would begin with about 20 families and that we would possibly get to 100 by the end of our first year. We never expected to be where we are now,” said Justin Slep, director of Franklin County Veterans Affairs, who added the program distributed 62,696 lbs. of food through its first six months. “I’m happy to exceed my goal for this program, but it’s also bittersweet because it shows the need in our community and how many people are struggling right now.”
“Franklin County has a long history of sending its sons and daughters into service of our country. In return, the county takes great pride in caring for those servicemen and women and their families,” said Franklin County Commissioner Chairman Dave Keller. “Franklin County MilitaryShare is just one more way we can say ‘thank you’ to these individuals for their service to our country.”
Distribution occurs on the first Thursday of each month from 10 a.m. to noon at 425 Franklin Farm Lane, Chambersburg. While items can vary, families participating in Franklin County MilitaryShare can anticipate receiving fresh produce, milk, eggs, cheese and a box of pantry staples such as soup, pasta, sauce and cereal. Other items like meat, fish and poultry may also be included when available. The program is a drive-through type of event and volunteers from local service clubs, nonprofits and businesses load boxes of food into each participant’s car.
To be eligible for Franklin County MilitaryShare, participants must provide proof of military service as well as pre-register to ensure organizers order the correct amount of food for distribution. Individuals and families may also receive other food assistance.
“We started this program because we saw a need within our veteran population. We have veterans and widows who are skipping meals because they aren’t able to make food last or because they don’t have the financial means to get enough food,” said Slep. “In some cases, we’ve been told that these individuals don’t qualify for other programs, so they just go without food for days at a time. That’s unacceptable in my eyes.”
Statistics show that 26% of households receiving food assistance in central Pennsylvania have at least one member who has served or who is currently serving in the military. Franklin County’s program is one of nearly 30 other MilitaryShare programs that are currently assisting over 45,000 Pennsylvanians in the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank’s 27-county service region.
For more information, or to register for Franklin County MilitaryShare, contact John McPaul, Franklin County Office of Veterans Affairs community outreach coordinator, at 717-263-4326 or [email protected].