The Faces of Face to Face

Andrew Albert (@AndrewJAlbert01)

East Price Street can be an intimidating place. The narrow streets surrounding the two way street concede to strong, bold black gates that surround the St. Vincent’s Church property.

On the northern end of the property, there is a large, rustic looking building that you can tell used to be a beauty in the architecture world. On any given day, you will find men and women outside on the steps, talking with each other, or just stopping to sit for a while. They know those steps are safe. They know they are welcome there.

That Northern end of the property is home to Face to Face, a shelter and food kitchen that serves the Germantown area of Philadelphia. According to their website, “at Face to Face struggling families, individuals and the homeless are welcomed and treated with dignity and respect.  Our goal is to meet basic human needs and reduce suffering; thereby assisting our guests to a better future.”

Face to Face provides many services to anyone in need, and everyone is welcome, regardless of their situation. They have a nurse managed Health Center, a Legal Center, a Social Services Center and Children’s Summer Camps and After School programs. They serve over 2,500 people annually, and have been a fixture in the Germantown area for decades. 

The main aspect of Face to Face is their dining services. They serve meals to those in need every day of the week, with Sunday being their main meal of the week.

According to city-data.com, the area that surrounds Face to Face is riddled with poverty. 28.3 percent of the people living in the area are below the poverty line, and the medium income per household is just $37,344.

With the outstanding poverty rate in the surrounding area, Face to Face gets a lot of traffic through their dining room, more than any other of their services. In a world where eating healthy will cost you upwards of $500 dollars more a year, there is very little room for people in Germantown to buy their own healthy food, so they come to Face to Face. They have a large back room full of stocked up cans and fruits and veggies, as well as a large dining room that can hold up to 100 people at a time.

According to head chef Altenor Vaval, the kitchen will serve over 900 people meals on a weekly basis, with about 300 of those meals coming in a Sunday meal form. Face to Face does not collect any money for their services, so they rely entirely on donations.

A big portion of their donations come from the Fresh Grocer via the Exploring Nutrition Program at La Salle University. The Exploring Nutrition program aims to improve the way of life via nutrition. They cover the area surrounding La Salle University, in Philadelphia’s Olney section.

“Exploring Nutrition was a provost mandated project,” Tom Wingert, the former head of the program said. “We wanted to figure out what kind of relationship La Salle University and the intellectual capital we have at this university, be it students, be it faculty can have on the local community about nutritional health.”

La Salle and it’s team went out to help places such as Face to Face. Without La Salle and the Fresh Grocer, Face to Face would not have enough food to feed all the people that come in for help.

Face to Face gets deliveries just about once a week from the Fresh Grocer. According to Vaval, they get everything from canned goods to produce to pastries that help feed the Germantown area.

“We get deliveries once a week, typically on Friday afternoons,” Vaval said. “We try to prepare everything on Saturday morning so it is ready for the weekend and still fresh.”

Vaval and any volunteers that are willing to help make the meals in bulk on Saturday and store them away in the freezers located in the kitchen at the shelter. He says that he likes to prepare the ingredients for Sunday’s big meal, which happens in shifts, before hand so the ingredients are fresh as possible for the people who come in for dinner.

Vaval and all the people at Face to Face expressed their gratitude for the Exploring Nutrition program via the Fresh Grocer for everything that they do. Without their help, they say many people would go hungry and be on the streets.

Despite the bold, strong gates protecting the stronghold that is Face to Face, they are very welcoming. The people who look disheveled on the steps are not hungry, thanks to Face to Face and all they do for the Germantown area. Despite struggling to make it by themselves, Face to Face always manages to help those in need, even if it is just a simple meal.

 

 

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