President-elect Joe Biden volunteered at Philadelphia hunger relief organization Philabundance Monday morning as part of the national day of service for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, visiting the city just two days before he’s sworn into office.
After taking selfies with masked supporters outside the group’s South Philadelphia headquarters, Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, stood along a rolling conveyor belt in the parking lot, helping pack food for those in need. As disco played over loudspeakers, Biden, wearing a face mask, his aviators, and a green Philabundance hat, placed cans of beans, two at a time, into food boxes. Jill Biden added packages of rice. (The boxes also included potatoes, apples, oranges, peppers, butter, and milk, all from Pennsylvania and New Jersey farms and distributors).
The Bidens, along with their daughter, Ashley, and one of their grandchildren, stayed for a little under an hour. Some 150 food boxes were packed at the event, according to a Biden aide.
Loree Jones, Philabundance’s chief executive, said Biden “really appreciated that so many more Americans are finding themselves food insecure and so the Biden administration wants to highlight that issue.” Biden told her he’s planning an announcement soon to address poverty, including aid to food banks, Jones said.
She told him the Philadelphia region has seen a 60% increase in food insecurity since the coronavirus pandemic began, and 40% of that has come from people experiencing that struggle for the first time. “That means our neighbors, everyday Americans ... are making the choice between paying their rent or buying food,” she said.
As many as 890,000 people in the Philadelphia region were food insecure at the end of 2020, Jones said.
“Those percentages they play out across the country,” Jones said. “We’re hoping that we get to work together to end hunger for good.”
Philabundance volunteer Desiree’ La Marr-Murphy, a Philadelphia teacher who runs her own food bank, gave Biden a letter thanking him for his concern for people facing poverty. She described a 2001 fire that left her homeless, and the food aid she received from a local church: “A can each of waxed beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, and some half dead produce.”
“I literally fell on my knees and cried out of frustration. ... Is this what needy people get?,” La Marr-Murphy wrote. “I looked at my children and swore that day that when I am in a better position, I will do better. I will start a food program that provides quality food to those in need.”
She created Murphy’s Giving Market in 2007 and now supports several schools and childcare centers in the city. “Thank you Mr. President for caring about all of us, the sick, the poor, and the hungry. Congratulations on beginning this part of your journey,” she wrote.
Jones said La Marr-Murphy’s story embodies King’s call to service.
The Bidens wrote personal notes on a message board at Philabundance:
“Thank you for giving people in need the most valuable thing that can be given. HOPE. Joe Biden.”
“Philly Strong! Thank you for all you do, — Love, Jill Biden.”
The Biden inaugural team emailed supporters Monday urging them to get involved in their communities.
“Service is a fitting way to start to heal, unite, and rebuild this country we love,” Biden wrote.
The King holiday is designated as a national day of service. Biden’s inaugural committee, working with AmeriCorps and other organizations, arranged more than 2,500 service events in 56 states and territories, according to the committee.