Kennett Food Cupboard

Kevin Lawler, a student at Kennett Middle School at the time, stacks the shelves at hte Kennett Food Cupboard in this photo taken four years ago.

Napoleon Bonaparte once said; “An army marches on its stomach” and “To be effective, an army relies on good and plentiful food.” In writing the book “The Story of Kennett” with Joan Holliday, I came to believe Kennett is not much different.

Food permeates all layers of our community’s society. In our home, the kitchen walls are filled with menus from the meals of great chefs we have enjoyed. We don’t think there are many things better than a really great meal. As we have studied what makes Kennett great we have seen a big part of the town’s resurgence is the influx of great restaurants such as Talula’s Table, Portobello’s and Lily’s along with Mexican, Thai, and others.

I could imagine the Kennett fathers asking Harrisburg to declare, “Mushrooms” the sixth food group, all by itself. Still the health of a community is complicated as this past month we lost the Longwood Family Restaurant after 13 years of operation, which replaced Hugo’s, which had been in business for almost 50 years. Let’s hope someone can come in and give it new life as the Darwinian forces take their tolls.

More than just great food, you define the quality of a community by answering the question; Are the kids going to bed hungry? I’m a volunteer for the Kennett Area Community Service (KACS), a non-profit that has the profound objective of eliminating poverty in Southern Chester County.

Its first goal is to eliminate hunger. It does this through the Kennett Food Cupboard where they provide an extra week’s worth of food for families that are at risk of hunger and probably on SNAP, the current version of Food Stamps. KACS serves well over 500 families. Sadly, Washington is trying to reduce the number of people on SNAP by 3 million people to save money.

This will translate to over 500,000 children with increased food insecurity, not to mention their families. An example of being penny wise and pound foolish.

There is a lot more that can be done around food other than provide a week of groceries. At one conference in Cincinnati, addressing the challenges of poverty, I found organizations like KACS providing occupational health training on healthy eating and how to make sure families had at least one sit down meal together each day.

Food cupboards collaborated with their Y on addressing obesity and provided training on how to make the food dollar go farther. They helped families grow their own food.

The food banks would have bags of potatoes that were never touched because clients didn’t know how to prepare a raw potato and didn’t have a paring knife if they did, so they taught food prep and equipment. Just the process of how to use the food bank is not understood by most citizens, let alone guest worker families who don’t speak English well.

Then there is dental coverage that is left out of much of the health care coverage. Managing alcohol is another major issue in almost any community. KACS is always looking for innovative ways to address food insecurity and poverty for Kennett’s children and their families.

It is not just because my wife, her sister, her brother-in-law and mother are Penn State trained Hospital Dieticians that I see food being the answer to so many questions. My two granddaughters Sarah (12) and Sophia (10) spend a lot of time on their screens. So earlier this year when their mom and little brother Wyatt (5) were out, Dad had the job of cooking dinner while the girls played on their iPads. He had the inspiration of having them cook dinner and he used the Food Network’s program Chopped Challenge as a model.

They were given 4 grocery items and were challenged to make a meal out of them. Eight months later, it has become The Family George Chopped Challenge- Friday Night Cook-off. They use the internet and cookbooks to find recipes, and sometimes they just wing it. They are learning how to time the meals so everything comes out hot at the same time. They have tried picking a dish and each makes their own version of say Chicken Paprika or Risotto.

Sophia and Sarah love it but not all their ideas are a success, like chocolate covered cereal for desert. The neighbors came over one evening with their two boys and the girls found it wasn’t always easy including someone else in the decision process, (too many cooks spoil the broth) but they improved their teamwork. Wyatt wants to participate too and they let him cook his own hot dog or a grilled cheese sandwich.

The parents give constructive feedback but there are no losers or winners. The girls have to eat what they cook, which gives them an extra incentive to get it right. It builds a more sophisticated pallet and you don’t have picky eaters.

I hope you see how enough great food is so important to a town and more than anything a meal is a time when families come together to commune and talk about life. It makes for a great community to grow up. It is one of the reason we find it such a great place to grow old.

The Story of Kennett may be purchased on Amazon and at the Mushroom Cap or Resale Book Shoppe in Kennett. You can contact Bob at
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