Firm: Brown Brothers Harriman & Co.
As a wife, a mother of 4-year old twin girls, and a senior vice president and director of wealth planning at Brown Brothers Harriman & Co., Michelle Hong has a lot on her plate. And, having a full plate in her home is one of the reasons Michelle is board chair of Philabundance, the Delaware Valley’s largest hunger-relief organization. Philabundance, which collects 21 million pounds of food annually and feeds 72,000 individuals weekly through direct service programs and a network of 500 agencies, is about to embark on a new venture: the largest non-profit grocery store in the United States.
“Nearly one million people in the Philadelphia area are ‘food insecure,’ meaning they don’t know where their next meal is coming from,” Michelle says. “Philabundance’s primary mission is to provide immediate meals for those individuals, but we also look for longer-term solutions to improve food access and choice.”
“I’m excited that this year, we’re preparing to launch the nation’s first non-profit grocery store of its scale in Chester—one of 35 food deserts in our region where car-less residents have to pay a costly cab fare or carry their groceries onto public transportation just to bring home fresh fruits and vegetables.” Philabundance has already raised $5 million and has broken ground on the facility, which will be called “Fare & Square.” Food items will be priced as close to cost as possible, thanks to partnerships with large suppliers who are offering preferential pricing. The store will focus on providing a consistent source of fresh food, adding about 40 new jobs to the community and offering Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program outreach. “The goal is to engage the community and provide a long-term benefit to residents,” Michelle says. And, if this pilot succeeds, the hope is that this non-profit grocery will be replicated in other food deserts across the country.
Michelle is also a founding member of the Ceres Society—a women’s giving circle formed two years ago to support Philabundance. In its first year, the Ceres Society leveraged gifts to set forth a matching challenge that raised over $500,000 for Philabundance.
“Becoming a mom has deepened the heartbreak of hunger for me,” shares Michelle. “I don’t have to add water to my children’s milk or force myself to eat less, so that a loved one can eat more. Sadly, there are too many people who have to make those kinds of decisions every day. This has to stop. We have to make it unacceptable for anyone in this country to go hungry.”
Food for thought.
Photograph by: Brian Miller/Chorus Photography