Philabundance halts a successful food giveaway

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People line up under I-95 for free food from Philabundance on Monday afternoon. (David Swanson / Staff Photographer)

A program in South Philadelphia that, in 11 weeks, has given more than 50,000 pounds of frozen meat and dairy products to anyone in need from around the region is shutting down, a victim of its overwhelming success.

As hundreds of people lined up Monday afternoon for the weekly Philabundance food giveaway at Front and Dickinson Streets beneath I-95, they were handed a flyer announcing the program’s abrupt end until at least September.

"When I saw that letter today, saying they were going cut it out, I said, "Oh, no," said Mary Seddler, 55, a part-time caregiver from Darby Borough. "This was really helping me. I am shocked."

Marlo DelSordo, a spokeswoman for Philabundance, the nonprofit organization devoted to providing free food to people in need, said the agency was ending the program because it had become too big and "created stresses" on the neighborhood.

DelSordo said the giveaway, held each Monday from 1 to 2 p.m. has attracted more than 500 people each week since it was launched 11 weeks ago.

"We closing because we created this pilot program and it has far surpassed the crowds we anticipated," DelSordo said. "We thought we would get 175 to 250 people a week. We never expected crowds of 500 people."

Residents, business owners and community groups have complained about the size of the crowds, DelSordo said.

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