Art of Aging: Philabundance founder still combating hunger 3 decades later

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Art of Aging: Philabundance founder still combating hunger 3 decades later - Ali Gorman reports during Action News at noon on December 14, 2017. (WPVI)

Each year, 6abc partners in the region's largest food drive to help our neighbors in need.

Pamela Rainey Lawler founded Philadbundance 34 years ago.

She says she has always been a self-professed foodie, but in lots of eating out, she noticed a disturbing trend.

"A lot of perishable foods that were going to waste," she said.

It was 1984 and Lawler also saw a lot of people going hungry in Philadelphia.

"It was like, 'Wait a minute.' There's this critical problem. The people who have the food are willing to donate it; the agencies need it. This is a problem that can be solved," she said.

All that was needed was a middleman to connect the food going to waste to the agencies feeding the hungry. So, Lawler, then 34-years-old, decided to quit her job in corporate communications and create that missing piece of the puzzle.

"I had 3 soup kitchens, 3 emergency food pantries, 3 shelters," she said.

Thirty-three years later, Philabundance is the largest hunger relief agency in the region, distributing 24 million pounds of food each year to the hungry, homeless and working poor.

"We serve 90,000 people a week basically, have so many programs that reach so many parts of the community. And you know um that's really what's most gratifying to me," said Lawler.

Philadabundance not only feeds the needy but trains them for careers in the food industry through a free program called the Philabundance Community Kitchen or PCK.

"It's a successful program that launches individuals on a path to self-sufficiency," said Lawler.

PCK is now undergoing a huge expansion project - with Lawler leading the effort.

"Pam is a ball of energy and has been an inspiration to so many of us. She is the heart of all the work that Philabundance does," said Candace Matthews, Director of Philabundance Community Kitchen.

And what it does is help those in need until they can help themselves.

"After I finish the program, I just plan on being successful. I plan on taking that next step and progressing forward with my life," said Samir Hernandez from Southwest Philadelphia.

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healthart of aginghealthcheckphilabundancehungerhomelessfood
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