Oxford Circle: Northeast Philadelphia Association Steps Up in Time of Need

A Northeast Philadelphia association in Oxford Circle shifts its focus to food distribution during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Oxford Circle Community Development Association usually focuses on employment, job training, and mentoring — but these days, it’s handing out food.

As the nation tries to slow the spread of COVID-19, people have been ordered to stay home and many jobs have been lost. The OCCDA, a nonprofit associated with the Oxford Circle Mennonite Church, now spends every Wednesday and Saturday giving food to the community with help from several volunteers.  

Executive Director Pearl Wang-Herrera said the association is trying to help the community so food is not added to the list of worries families have during the pandemic. She said people are very grateful, and she has received a lot of thanks. The number of people who showed up looking for food on Wednesday was something she did not expect.

Oxford Circle Community Development Association staffers wait to deliver food for families in need.

“Our first priority is the families and seniors who rely on food banks for help,” Wang-Herrera said. “Our supporters are there to help us in these times of difficulty. We cannot do it alone.”

Andrea Hodge is a volunteer who is stocking and distributing food to around 30 families each day. She packs the family-sized boxes, which contain 20 meals per box. She is happy to serve her community and the families who have lost the daily meals they usually get at school. 

“These boxes are the most helpful to the community right now,” Hodge said. “Dry goods and shelf-stable items have a longer life. We are maintaining social distancing and the highest level of cleanliness for the safety of the food we provide to our community.”

Administrative assistant Maggie Beech said it feels different because people are panicking about what they will eat and how they will feed their children when they don’t have school. She said people live paycheck to paycheck, so they have enough food for two weeks until they get paid again. Now that they are not working, they are worried about feeding their children.  

“This is an uncertain time for all of us, and the food drive is helping to ensure the health and food security of our community,” Beech said. “We have a lot more families on our waiting list to be giving out food in the community soon.”

Text and images by Cynthia Sardar.

Please send any questions or concerns about this story to: editor@philadelphianeighbors.com.

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