Retired Army veteran continuing to serve community through church food program

WEST OAK LANE (WPVI) -- Every weekday, Michael Bennett is working to fight hunger in his West Oak Lane community by providing food through the 2 Fish 5 Loaves food program he runs out of the Upper Room Missionary Baptist Church.

Bennett, a deacon at the church, says he is very committed to what he does - distributing food to those in need. "And I have a compassion," explains Bennett. "Because you'll be surprised at the people that are really needing food."

Bennett created the food pantry in concert with the church's pastor, Carlton Aiken, Sr., about a decade ago.

"We wanted to start it here in the West Oak Lane area," says Bennett. "And I took off and I ran with it."

Aiken, Sr. says Bennett has been the key person with the food program. "That's helped the community bond together," explains Aiken, Sr. "The project has meant a sense of stability. It's provided so much hope."

Bennett facilitated a partnership with Philabundance, which provides much of the food that's distributed. He works frequently with Caity Cogan, an agency coordinator with Philabundance.

"We usually send out maybe four to six different items, produce-wise," says Cogan. "So it's really a nice mix that he has here for the clients."

Volunteers bag the food to prep it for distribution.

"There's four bags that will be passed out," says Bennett. "Each bag consists of produce, dry goods, bakery, meat."

Safety protocols are in place to keep both recipients and volunteers safe.

"They take everything out of the box and they move on," says Bennett. "And we spread them 6-feet apart."

Bennett says safety is a priority at distribution and you must be wearing a mask to receive food.

"He's just got the best intentions for everyone in this community," says Cogan. "And it's really inspiring."

Last year, Bennett was honored by Philabundance for his work, receiving the 'Hunger Hero' Award.

"He serves with a such a compassion and humility," says Aiken, Sr. "He never says no, it's always a yes. Or, he'll find a way to get it done."

"I just have a heart for people," says Bennett. "It's a blessing that I'm able to do this."

Food boxes specifically for seniors are distributed at the Upper Room Missionary Baptist Church every first Friday of the month.

For more information:

Upper Room Missionary Baptist Church: https://urmbc.org/
2 Fish 5 Loaves Food Program: https://urmbc.org/community-outreach/
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