Families in Kensington went through what may have been one of the hardest seasons of a lifetime in spring 2020. First, the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March, and then the protests and uprisings after George Floyd’s murder by a police officer in May.
With many of the neighborhood’s essential businesses temporarily shut down and household items sold out at still open stores, families were having a tough time buying food, toiletries, and other necessities. Seeing the reality of those circumstances, Philadelphia resident Annabel Wulfhart created the Kensington-based nonprofit organization Papermill Food Hub and organized a team of volunteers to work on a solution.
Starting with 21 families throughout Philadelphia, referred by colleagues from her full-time job as a social worker, Wulfhart and the volunteers at Papermill Food Hub began delivering essential items like diapers, detergent, and easy-to-prepare foods. The organization currently serves 103 families across the city — through referrals from block captains and local organizations like the Kensington Soccer Club — with weekly drop-offs of items chosen by the recipients based on their needs.
“Our mission statement is to reduce the stress of waking up in the morning, not knowing how you’re going to feed your kids,” Wulfhart said.
She added that the organization hopes to reduce families’ daily stress and give them more opportunities to spend time together.
The organization’s work is supported by sponsors, such as Greensgrow and Baker Street Bread Co., and one-time or monthly donations from individuals. The monthly donation options are $10, $25, $50, and $100.
Aside from delivering groceries to families in need, Wulfhart and her team are trying to turn the vacant lot next to their headquarters into a community garden for nearby families. Wulfhart said they want to plant fresh produce in the garden to add to their delivery bags.
“There are a lot of families on the block, and kids are often playing in the street because that’s the only place available, and then you just see cars streaming up and down the street all the time,” she added. “So we’re looking to add to what we do by creating this community garden space.”
For Wulfhart, the garden could be another valuable resource for the community and possibly reduce violence in the area.
“If families have more resources, if they aren’t so stressed and have a safe place where their kids can play, violence will reduce,” Wulfhart said. “And if violence reduces, that’s better for everyone in the city; we all will live in a safer place.”