PHILADELPHIA — Filling boxes with food and singing the Philadelphia Eagles fight song, “Fly, Eagles, Fly,” President Joe Biden returned to Philadelphia on Sunday to visit Philabundance, the same hunger relief agency where he s stopped for service day duties in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day last year.
President and First Lady Jill Biden stood in front of a U-shaped conveyor belt with others, helping pack 27-pound food boxes destined for the Justice Day pantry in Northeast Philadelphia and Mid-Atlantic States Inc. Career and Education Center in Pennsville, Salem County, according to Philabundance CEO Loree Jones. She stood next to Biden at the waistline at the anti-hunger agency’s headquarters in South Philadelphia.
As the president placed 3-pound bags of carrots in boxes, Jill Biden – dressed in an Eagles shirt – loaded bundles of apples of the same size.
In all, 500 family meal kits were packed during the Bidens’ Philabundance visit.
Jones thanked Biden for making child hunger a priority of his administration. According to Feeding America, the national food charity of which Philabundance is a part, the number of children facing hunger in the United States has increased during the pandemic – from more than 10 million children in 2019 to nearly 12 million. in 2020.
“These child tax credits have really helped a lot,” Biden replied. “We have to renew it.”
Biden added, “We still have a long way to go to end hunger in America. The COVID crisis in the country has increased a need that was already alarming and has now brought many more people in need into pantries, closets and emergency kitchens.
“The recovery of our communities from this pandemic has been difficult and we must continue to make ending hunger in America a top priority.”
When Biden was at Philabundance last year, two days before his inauguration, he made a point of saying he wanted to end America’s hunger for children. “Then he extended the benefits of SNAP [food stamps] and expanded the CTC [child tax credit]”, Jones said. “And for a while it worked.”
The expanded CTC payments that lifted millions of families out of poverty expired last month without Congress allowing them to continue, plunging many needy people into a state of destitution, Jones noted.
She said she was moved that the Bidens are “taking this opportunity to help feed the food insecure” as the final CTC payments have been made.
“During his first year in office, President Biden has shown great support for the well-being and health of people who are struggling to provide for their families,” Jones added.
Biden, born in Scranton, has based his presidential campaign in Pennsylvania and has visited the state frequently since becoming president, including events in Pittsburgh, Delaware County and the Lehigh Valley. The state was crucial to his overall victory in 2020.
Dressed in a navy blazer and black sweater, Biden chatted kindly with Philabundance employees, volunteers and representatives from other organizations, including AmeriCorps CEO Michael Smith, the federal service and the agency of volunteering. He arrived just after 11:30 a.m. and stayed for over an hour.
Jones said she was charmed by Biden: “It struck me even more this year than last how engaging and conversational he is.”
The Reverend Patricia Neale, executive director of Feast of Justice, was among those who stood on the other side of Biden’s assembly line and discussed the impact of the pandemic on immigrant communities and working people. who relied on the gig economy or restaurant jobs to get by.
Biden asked Neale about the families his pantry, one of Philadelphia’s largest, serves: What foods do they crave the most? What do they need?
“It was a little intimidating. But he’s extremely likeable and connected to that,” Neale said. “He was very interested in promoting the ongoing battle for the child tax credit and talking to all of us about how we need to work together and that he’s going to keep fighting for that.”
As relaxed and friendly as Biden was, Jones said, it took little prompting for the president and first lady to sing the Eagles fight song Jones started.
Afterwards, Jones reminisced about two presidential visits she won’t soon forget: “For two years in a row, to see the President of the United States do this humble act of service with us – it was just amazing. “
(Philadelphia Inquirer writer Jonathan Tamari contributed to this report.)
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