Fresh Express

Fresh Express is run by the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank to deliver fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as nonperishable items, to individuals who are food-insecure. More than 15,000 individuals are served each month through Fresh Express at nearly 100 distribution sites throughout the food bank’s 27-county service area.

Three seniors visit HDC MidAtlantic to select juices and other food itemsFood assistance is among the greatest needs of which residents living in Housing Development Corp. (HDC) MidAtlantic properties—particularly seniors.

For years, HDC MidAtlantic has worked with the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank to deliver food boxes to seniors through its ElderShare program. However, only residents 60 and older who meet income-eligibility requirements qualify. This led the resident services team of HDC MidAtlantic staff to explore food-assistance options for families, including those with young children.

The team learned about Fresh Express at the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank’s conference in October 2016 and felt it might be the solution.

“We were seeking opportunities to partner on distribution in the Quarryville area,” says Food Bank Director of Agency Relations Jorja Barton. “HDC MidAtlantic has been a partner for some time, so we met and sure enough, we made it happen.”

“There is only one grocery store in a two-mile radius. This grocery store is close to Oak Bottom Village; however, a lack of transportation leaves a lot of our residents without adequate access to food,” says HDC MidAtlantic Resident Service Coordinator Jennifer Santiago, who oversees the development’s Fresh Express. “Most residents also said they didn’t have enough income to cover the high cost of food sold at the existing grocery store.”

Areas like Quarryville in southeastern Lancaster County are sometimes called food deserts because residents have limited access to food, especially affordable, fresh produce. While residents living at Oak Bottom Village benefit from the program, Fresh Express is open to any qualifying family in the area.

Fresh Express foods is distributed at Oak Bottom Village on the first Monday of every month. Santiago posts flyers around the property alerting residents. Other neighbors hear about Fresh Express by word of mouth.

Santiago said she’s grateful for the program because it’s helping families and it’s giving her a chance to meet more residents, and that’s opening doors.

“Residents are getting to know me better through Fresh Express, and that’s key to helping them feel more comfortable reaching out to me for assistance with other concerns and needs,” she says. “I find it rewarding to work within our communities and to be part of a solution to one of their greatest needs.”

Linking health and happiness

Jane, a resident at Sylvan Retreat Apartments in Mountville, Pa., was eager to attend the first class of Nutrition Links, a program hosted by Penn State Extension Lancaster County. While she was looking forward to the taco salad recipe and meal that would be shared during the class, she was most excited about connecting with the class’s instructor, Donna Sullivan.

Jane received her certificate in nutrition from a local extension office and later went on to work as a chef at an assisted living facility for the 34 years. She attended the day’s class with photos from her graduation ceremony and was looking forward to talking with Sullivan about the nutrition program and instructors. The two shared friendly banter as the class started and as Sullivan began to prepare the taco salad recipe, Jane was by her side cutting tomatoes and shredding lettuce. As the two women worked together to prepare the class’s meal, it was easy to see why and how food brings people of all ages and cultures together.

Sullivan has been leading the six-week Nutrition Links program throughout the summer at three HDC MidAtlantic properties in Lancaster County including Sylvan Retreat, St. Peter Apartments and Trinity House Apartments.  The series, sponsored and hosted by Penn State Extension provides research-based nutrition education to help people and families with limited resources enhance their nutrition, increase their physical activity and develop life skills needed for self-sufficiency and better health.

Classes include hands-on activities and food demonstrations to educate residents on food selection, dietary intake, management of resources, portion control, nutritional values and food safety. The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and does not supply free food or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance benefits but rather provides participants with the knowledge and skills to plan and prepare a healthful diet on a limited budget.

Research shows lower-income households purchase more affordable but less healthy groceries like cereals, pasta, potatoes, and fatty meats. Produce is often overlooked or not easily accessible, and is commonly limited to iceberg lettuce, potatoes, canned corn, bananas, and frozen orange juice.

In Nutrition Links, residents are taught the nutritional value and other information about common grocery staples so consumers can make healthier decisions that fit within their budgets. For example, residents are encouraged to buy beans, which are low-cost but also a good source of protein and fiber. The program further provides residents with helpful tools like sample shopping lists, quick reference guides for nutritional values and healthy recipes.

There are plans to expand Nutrition Links to 14 other HDC MidAtlantic properties in Lancaster within the next year. Nutrition Links is also offered at three properties in Chester County through Penn State Extension Chester County

Collaboration with partners like Penn State Extension is one of the ways HDC MidAtlantic fulfills its promise to residents to build hope and opportunity by providing a safe and affordable place to call home. Our Resident Services are designed to strengthen the mental, physical, financial and emotional health of our residents and communities by connecting residents to resources. Our team does this by focusing on five key areas designed to meet the needs of residents including health and wellness.  HDC MidAtlantic believes a strong Resident Services program contributes to long-term stability for our residents. Our efforts are designed to increase self-sufficiency, improve living conditions, create healthy communities, and support youth and caretakers.

Learn more…

HDC MidAtlantic recognized by PHFA

HDC MidAtlantic received a Best Practices award in property management from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) for Henner Apartments in Womelsdorf, Pa. The property was recognized for its outstanding performance highlighting its effective waitlist management, apartment turnover procedures and low vacancy rate.

“We are committed to making every vacant apartment ready and available to people in need of affordable housing as soon as possible,” said HDC MidAtlantic President and CEO Dana Hanchin. “HDC MidAtlantic has an outstanding team of dedicated and professional staff and high performance standards to ensure our residents have a safe and affordable place to call home.” 

The award was presented at PHFA’s 2018 Multifamily Affordable Housing Conference in June.

Built in 2007, Henner Apartments features 27 one-bedroom apartment homes for seniors age 62 years and older.

Founded in 1971, HDC MidAtlantic is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit providing quality affordable rental homes to 4,800 residents including working families, seniors and individuals with disabilities throughout Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland. HDC MidAtlantic owns, develops and/or manages more than 3,700 affordable apartments by delivering high-quality and secure housing solutions through innovative property management, real estate development and resident services.

HDC MidAtlantic is part of the NeighborWorks network, an affiliation of more than 240 nonprofit organizations located in every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The NeighborWorks network was founded and is supported by NeighborWorks America, which creates opportunities for people to live in affordable homes, improve their lives and strengthen their communities.