President Joe Biden visited Philadelphia-based food bank Philabundance on Jan. 16 and assisted volunteers as part of a day of service affiliated with Martin Luther King Jr. Day. He was accompanied by recently elected Philadelphia mayor Cherelle Parker and joined dozens of volunteers who created backpack kits for children facing food insecurity. Biden also visited the nonprofit charity in 2023 and 2022 to observe the King holiday.
Philabundance says its mission is “to drive hunger from our communities today and end hunger for good.” The organization serves five counties in Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Delaware, Chester, Montgomery and Bucks) and four in New Jersey (Salem, Burlington, Camden, and Gloucester).
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization offered drive-through distribution of food to needy families. In addition to serving area residents, Philabundance has also provided hot meals for refugees from Afghanistan.
Philabundance was one of 18 food banks in Pennsylvania that received assistance from the American Rescue Plan, the COVID-19 economic stimulus bill that was signed into law by Biden in 2021.
“This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country and giving people in this nation — working people and middle-class folks, the people who built the country — a fighting chance,” Biden said in remarks at the March 11, 2021, bill signing.
The Rescue Plan allocated funds to Pennsylvania for pandemic relief and in December 2021, then-Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, announced that $11.4 million of the federal dollars would be used to create the COVID-19 Food Bank Cold Storage Infrastructure Program.
The funds allowed food banks to purchase new cold storage equipment, upgrade old equipment, or expand their existing cold storage capacity.
“Eligible purchases include refrigerators, coolers, freezers, refrigerator trailers and cargo vans, building expansions, and more. This program will touch all 67 counties and is essential to addressing food insecurity and food waste,” the Wolf administration said in a statement.
Philabundance received $156,000 from the program as part of the overall award to Feeding Pennsylvania, a network of food banks servicing the entire state.
Other food banks that were helped include the Central PA Food Bank, Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, Helping Harvest, Share Food Program, and Food Helpers.
The Rescue Plan secured congressional passage with only Democratic votes, including a tiebreaking vote in the Senate from Vice President Kamala Harris. Congressional Republicans unanimously opposed the bill, including every Republican in the Pennsylvaniadelegation.
“No amount of deficit spending will heal an economy that remains locked down. This so-called American Rescue Plan focuses more on progressive pet projects than opening America while only 9% of this bill focuses on COVID testing and vaccine distribution,” Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) said in a February 2021 press release.
In March 2023, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) announced that in the two years following passage of the law, Pennsylvania had received at least $38 billion in investments from the Rescue Plan.“This law continues to deliver billions of dollars to our Commonwealth and has brought Pennsylvania back stronger than it was before the pandemic. Thanks to President Biden’s agenda, our economy is thriving, unemployment is down, and families have peace of mind knowing that Pennsylvania is a place of opportunity to raise a family,” Casey said in a statement.