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Delaware County Daily Times: Scanlon pays visit to Bennett Community Farm

 Bennett Community Farm staffers showcased their farmstand’s performance in the COVID-19 economic downturn Thursday afternoon during a return visit by U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-5 of Swarthmore. The congresswoman first visited the 2-acre site on the grounds of the Ruth L. Bennett Homes last September on an invitation from Chester Housing Authority. She returned this week by her own request to survey its food distribution efforts during a district tour.

 “I think it’s a pretty good model for what we can do when we think more holistically,” said Scanlon, who faces Republican challenger Dasha Pruett in the November general election. In addition to bringing fresh produce into “into an area where there’s food insecurity, and there’s not access to a lot of healthy foods… it expands and provides nutritional advice, it employs kids, it provides a community focus,” she said.


Scanlon also called for expansion of SNAP and WIC usage at similar community farmstands, which the Bennett farm normally accepts during its bi-weekly summer and fall selling season. In light of the economic downturn, for 2020 the stand has suspended sales and distributed food boxes to area residents for free through a combination of local donors and expanded federal funding.


The farmstand got an earlier start in the spring with Foundation for Delaware County donations to distribute produce boxes. The produce is sourced from area farms through Philadelphia-based nonprofit Common Market, which has in turn received support through USDA programs, according to Farm Manager Natania Schaumburg.


“I think we got like 140 boxes this time and we’re half way done,” Assistant Farm Manager Malik Savage said about 45 minutes into Thursday’s noon-2 p.m. sale hours. “We buy from Common Market because they buy from local farmers, it’s certified organic.”


The farmstand is now distributing Common Market-sourced boxes, its own vegetables and addition eggs and fruits through a combination of private donors and CARES Act funds, said Schaumburg. “Right now we plan to continue through the end of October and then have a Thanksgiving distribution on Tuesday, Nov. 24,” she said.


Speaking with the Times after Scanlon’s appearance, CHA Executive Director Steve Fischer said bolstered federal funding to the authority allowed it to work smoothly through the COVID situation. After applying for CARES Act funds to supply food to the Bennett farm, private farm donations freed the allocated government funding to supplement the CHA general budget. “We’re doing a lot of disinfecting of buildings we didn’t do in the past, then we have rents that were lowered pretty much to nothing due to people losing their jobs – you have all that loss of income,” said Fischer.


“We’ve had to spend a lot of money setting up all the (CHA employees) who have to work from home now,” Fischer said. For the authority’s workers who had to remain on site, Fischer said they have received unspecified additional compensation “for the hours they came in and exposed themselves (to infection risk).”