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UWCHLAN — There is no easier lunch to make, whether an adult or a child, than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
For many children in Chester County, though, they don’t have access to the ingredients of the sandwich, or lunch in general.
However, the Chester County Food Bank, partnered with United Way of Chester County, have set out to make sure these children have something to eat through the now annual Better Together: Peanut Butter & Jelly Drive.
“We really focused it on the end of the school year and there is a distinctive reason why we did that with school quickly coming to a close for the year,” said Anne Shuniak, corporate and community engagement and marketing manager at the food bank. “When school is out, so is also school lunches. There are over 13,000 kids in Chester County who receive a free or reduced-price lunch during the school season, so when school is out, they no longer have access to that lunch.”
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But, of all the foods out there, why peanut butter and jelly?
“It’s nutritious, it’s easy to make so kids can do it themselves and it can be preserved for long periods of time,” said Claudia Hellebush, president and CEO of United Way of Chester County.
The two organizations held the community weigh-in on Friday after families and corporations in the county had a month to collect as much peanut butter and jelly as they could.
“It was geared toward anyone (and) corporations definitely jumped on for it,” Shuniak said. “Most schools start ending around next week, so we just had to pick a date so folks have a set time to pick around. We saw a fair amount of corporations today, some families that came in and for a large portion of the day, the Chester County Boy Scouts came in with a very large total.”
After the community weigh-in, held Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., over 9,000 pounds of peanut butter and jelly — a whopping 4.5 tons — were donated.
As Shuniak pointed out, that won’t be the final count, as more people and places were planning to bring over their amounts later Friday evening.
“Last year was 5,200 pounds, so we’re pretty happy,” Shuniak said.
Even with all the good the donations will do, there was a winner named of the Peanut Butter Cup, a friendly competition to see who could bring in the most peanut butter and jelly.
For the second year in a row, the Matt Gorham team from Keller Williams Realty claimed the title with them bringing in over 2,000 pounds.
“It’s amazing,” Hellebush said. “The enthusiasm of these people is just infectious. We think, as this becomes better now, it’s just going to grow exponentially.”
Despite all the tonnage brought in, after the peanut butter and jelly is distributed to all the agencies, it will go from the shelves almost as quickly.
“We’re told it’s so popular and goes so fast that it will probably be off the shelves in a month to six weeks,” Hellebush said. “It’s incredible.”
With the ever growing popularity of the drive, both the Chester County Food Bank and the United Way of Chester County want to continue this new tradition.
“It’s fun to have the weigh-in part,” Shuniak said. “They see their number and say, ‘Oh, we’re going to beat that next year.’ It’s great to see and it’s great to have the corporations rally around knowing that they’re a Chester County business and the food is going to stay here in Chester County. It’s just a win-win all the way around.”
The added bonus of having everything raised and given back out in the county is another reason why it has become popular.
“We find that people love to volunteer and people really enjoy helping other people,” Hellebush said. “This is just such an easy way of helping people and such an effective way. People oftentimes aren’t sure what their efforts are yielding, but it’s pretty clear when you do something like this that you’re going to help some people who need food.”