With Thanksgiving around the corner, vaccinations becoming readily available, and Covid restrictions gradually being lifted, families across the country are busied with preparations for the holiday season ahead, eager to gather for meals and festivities. For hundreds of local families in Montgomery County, this will unfortunately not be the case as many remain housing and food insecure following the devastation of Hurricane Ida in September that displaced more than 436 individuals in 208 households across the county. YWCA Tri-County Area is one of many community-based organizations working together with Montgomery County and partnering nonprofits to provide hunger relief to families as they recover from the damage caused by the storm.
YW’s Dignity Kitchen, a social enterprise, workforce development program and licensed food service provider, is preparing nearly 600 meals per day for families displaced by Hurricane Ida. These families, living in hotels or other accommodations receive balanced and nourishing breakfast, lunch and dinner with a focus on fresh fruit and vegetables, while their homes are repaired.
“The County has supported victims of Ida since the day the storm made landfall and our support continues to this day,” said Dr. Valerie A. Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners. “We are extremely grateful to be working hand in hand with our partners to ensure our residents get the food, emergency shelter, and other support they need as they recover.”
Dignity Kitchen’s Director of Culinary Services Sara Anderson, her team, and volunteers working in shifts, prepare and package the meals daily. ACLAMO, Upper Merion Community Cupboard and other nonprofits work to identify families in need. Share Food Program supports efforts by providing logistics and delivery. Volunteers from Citadel credit union, Owen J. Roberts School District, and The Coventry Lions Club among others assist with packaging the meals at the Dignity Kitchen’s Norristown location. “Our team gets involved and is inspired by those we’ve met at Dignity Kitchen. Together, we’re building strength for our neighbors and community – and that makes us proud,” said Edita Bailey, Dual Market Manager at Citadel credit union.
Anderson said Dignity Kitchen will continue to provide meals to Montgomery County families “as long as there is a need. We hope these meals are a source of comfort for those people living in uncertain times away from their homes and regular routines.”
“Many of our clients have experienced damage to their homes and properties, some have been condemned,” shared Nelly Jimenez, Executive Director of ACLAMO. “As a result, those families are now residing in hotels under our care while we help them find more permanent housing. We are thankful for the partnerships that made this work possible and the organizations working together to help hurricane survivors.”
“The fallout of Hurricane Ida’s flooding was and is devastating for so many; we knew we had to help. Feeding children, families, and seniors is what we do, and that goes double for anyone in need of emergency food assistance,” said George Matysik, Executive Director of Share Food Program. “None of us are immune to disaster and the vulnerability that comes with it. What we can control is how we, as a community, respond and that we ensure we get people the resources they need, right now. We’ll be here, on the ground, every day, helping to bring meals to hungry neighbors for as long as we can. I’m grateful to our dedicated Share Food Program team and for exceptional partners like the YWCA for pulling together in this life-saving work.”
YW’s CEO Stacey Woodland said while the vision for Dignity Kitchen did not include emergency or disaster relief, she and YW were honored to have been included in the Ida recovery efforts in Montgomery County.
“Last year when Montgomery County invested some of its CARES funding to replace kitchen equipment in the Human Services Center in Norristown, I could never have envisioned how instrumental the Dignity Kitchen would be in supporting the dignity of county residents in a crisis,” Woodland said. “YW is doing incredibly important work in all the communities we serve. We are thankful for partnerships with Montgomery County and other nonprofits, all working together to strengthen our impact.” Dignity Kitchen is located in the large commercial kitchen space at the county’s Human Services Center. The space was renovated in 2020 with Montgomery County’s CARES funding, with the goal of training adults for careers in culinary arts while operating a café for workers and visitors at the Human Services Center. It provides Home Delivered Meals to qualified residents and is a Catalyst Kitchen member offering empowerment through food service training, sustainability through social enterprise,
and community engagement through food service and hunger relief.
“Going to the Dignity Kitchen means a chance to give back to the community and to people who may not have as much as us because of the storm,” said Josephine Podziomek and Ryeleigh Kirk, of the Leo Club – a youth service club sponsored by The Coventry Lions in the Owen J Roberts School District.
Individuals interested in volunteering or contributing to these efforts can sign up at
https://tinyurl.com/DKVolunteers or reach out to Development@YWCATriCountyArea.org.
YWCA Tri-County Area is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. YWCA is a leader in advocacy for women and girls, works to eliminate racism, and empowers women through quality affordable child care, adult literacy, workforce training, and a host of programs to support the health and vitality of women, girls, and families.