For Share Food director, a struggle 'the 10 other months'

Steveanna Wynn at the Share Food Program warehouse. While many people want to help in November and December, Wynn said, the poor need help the rest of the year, too.

The holidays are busy for Steveanna Wynn, executive director of Share Food Program Inc., the North Philadelphia nonprofit that provides food to food cupboards and affordable groceries to families.

She thrives on the activity, as volunteers bustle about the organization's cavernous warehouse and generous donors contribute food and cash. But . . .

"I actually don't like November and December," said Wynn, 68.

Question: Why is that?

Answer: Because there is an emphasis that those are the months that people need food. So, everyone wants to volunteer. Everyone wants to do a food drive. Everyone wants to buy a turkey. The reality is that it is awesome and it's wonderful, but there are 10 other months of the year that people need food and volunteers. There are 10 other months that a food drive would be awesome. By the time November and December are done, I'm really tired and a little bit angry.

Q: Is that because you worry about food needs in the other months?

A: Yes. January comes and there's snow and schools are closed. When schools are closed, children don't get their breakfast or lunch at school, which means that the food cupboards are overrun by folks needing more food because there's not enough food in their households to feed their children. So it's a challenge.

Q: Have you ever experienced hunger?

A: I don't know that I was ever hungry hungry, but there were times that [my son] ate and I did not.

Q: Growing up, was your family poor?

A: As I've gotten older, it has become clear that we were probably poor, but I never felt like I was poor. The Christmas that I remember the most - there were six dolls underneath the tree. They were all dolls that I had gotten previous Christmases, but my mother had made every one of them three new outfits. When my brother got up, there was a whole town around his train. Our presents had been made by my parents. So we must not have had any money that year.

Q: A lot of Share's work is the distribution of government surplus and bulk-donated food to food cupboards. You also assemble food packages for families. How does that work?

A: It's affordable food. People pay for the food. They [must also do] two hours of community service. If they bought it at the store, it would cost them 40 percent more.

Q: What's the holiday package and what does it cost?

A: Turkey, apple pie, whipped topping, bread, frozen broccoli, two cans of green beans, two cans of corn, stuffing, mac-and-cheese, three pounds of white potatoes, three pounds of sweet potatoes, two pounds of onions, a dozen eggs, four apples, four oranges, four tangerines, and a head of cabbage and a bunch of celery - $30.

Q: Fund-raising challenge?

A: [Raising] general operating or capital expenditure money to make repairs or to replace things that are dying, like forklifts and trucks.

Q: Why is that more of a challenge than food?

A: People embrace food. People don't embrace forklifts and trucks and roofs.

Q: How do you refresh your spirits?

A: I love to walk my dog. I spend a lot of time with Chopper. He brings me great joy. I try to get a massage once a month. That's part of my mental therapy.



Title: Executive director, Share Food Program.

Home: East Falls.

Diploma: Virginia Intermont, accounting.

Family: Son, Christopher, 48.

Her name: Parents wanted a boy, Steve. Grandmother Anna suggested Steveanna.

Fund-raising: "I don't mind it, but I'd rather unload a truck."

Handling holiday abundance when so many are suffering: "You cannot let this stop you from being joyous in your season with your family, but you have to remember and recognize that there are folks that have nothing and you need to do more and you need to do better."


Where: Philadelphia. 

Mission: Food distribution to 750 food cupboards and host groups. On-site farm provides fresh produce.

How much: 21.5 million pounds of food.

Households served: 305,000 in Philadelphia, parts of New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland.

Budget: $3.9 million.

Biggest needs: Roof repairs/replacement

at warehouse. A truck.


Steveanna Wynn on staying strong when sorrow abounds.

215-854-2769 @JaneVonBergen

Interview questions and answers have been edited for space.