Philadelphia’s one-stop shop to find free food across the city during COVID-19
The new website from the city features a map of all locations and other criteria for certain sites.
One of Philadelphia’s earliest actions as part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic, aside from shutting down non-essential businesses and ordering people to stay home, was to also provide free food to residents from a number of distribution centers throughout the city.
These locations quickly proved to be vital spots for struggling Philadelphians to find food and the city often struggled at first to keep up with the demand.
It meant a lot of sites were added in a short period of time and communication about their locations became the next challenge. Some news organizations have tried to fill in the gaps, but it’s been difficult to keep track of all the changes without a proper database.
With that in mind, the city recently unveiled a website that is just that: a database for all Philadelphians need to know about getting free food (and where) amid the coronavirus shutdown.
The new website, which lives at phila.gov/food, offers not only a map of all the food sites across Philadelphia, but also has a breakdown of who can go to each one.
There are four categories of food distribution centers in the city: standard sites, student meal sites, senior meal sites and outdoor sites.
The standard sites are eligible for any resident to attend to get one box of food per household and are open two days a week (Mondays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.). Depending on the day, food boxes contain either non-perishable items or fresh produce.
The outdoor sites are also eligible for any resident to attend, but have different hours, also listed on the city’s new website, and amount to one meal rather than a box of food.
Student meal sites are found at 83 locations across the city and are eligible for any children or youth to get food. The times vary at every location, but like the time for any other type of food center, can be found on the city’s new website.
The Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA) is operating 17 sites for residents 60 and older to get free food in addition to six operated by Philadelphia Parks and Recreation for those 55 and older. It is required for residents to call ahead for food when going to any of the PCA sites, but not for any of those managed by Parks and Rec.
Philadelphia has also considered language when releasing the new food site database — something it’s had varying degrees of success with as more information and aid has been developed for COVID-19.
The website is also available in five languages other than English that include Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian, and French.
It’s also keen to point out that the food centers do not replace the food pantries that are also available for residents during the COVID-19 pandemic or any other time of food crisis, and provides contact numbers for different resources in the network.
This article is part of Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting