How one man is fighting hunger, and crime, in North Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- According to a report by Hunger Free America, over 300,000 people struggle with hunger in Philadelphia.

Roughly 90 percent rely on food assistance through state programs. In parts of the city like North Philadelphia, fresh produce is hard to come by.

The recent effects amid the COVID-19 pandemic has deepened food insecurity even more.

Since 2015, North Philly native Kenneth Walker Jr. has been fighting that food insecurity every Tuesday and Thursday morning at the corner of 19th Street and Susquehanna Avenue.

Through a new partnership with Philabundance, Walker and his team of volunteers plan to expand their campaign to five days a week.

In the former headquarters he used during an unsuccessful run for state representative, Walker has launched The Walker Junior Unity Center as a resource hub for hundreds North Philly and surrounding neighborhoods.

With the help of volunteers, Walker unloads trucks filled with boxes of produce, free to the community.

"It first started out of my van, and I just knew it was a need for families to have fresh foods and vegetables," said Walker.

Tanya Riley, Walker's first Unity Center volunteer said, "People started coming from everywhere, it's been a blessing to help the seniors and everyone in the community."

Walker says he found his new purpose, to help serve those from where he was born and raised.

"After the campaign was over, I just continued from 2015 to the present day, " said Walker.

Some of the foods available to residents include meats, fruits, vegetables, eggs, bread, dairy products, and even pet food for cats and dogs donated by the PSPCA.

Walker, who has a biology degree from Cheyney University, works in criminal justice reform as part of the Philadelphia police Assisted Diversion Program.

While the Unity Center is a resource for much-needed food, Walker says it is also a shelter to prevent crime.

"We try and keep the doors open as much as we can," said Walker. "We pass out resources about mental health, drugs and alcohol, and even job readiness."

Walker says he's personally helped with hundreds of job resumes so community members can get jobs.

Walker self funds these community efforts, leaving the future of the Walker Junior Unity Center uncertain.

He hopes to remain open with the help of partnerships and grants through the city.

Walker says his overall hope is, "Just being able to have the resources to give it to the people that so much need it in this community."

To help Walker out on his efforts, you can donate here.
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