Nonprofit provides diverse food aid during the pandemic

(Photo courtesy of KITHS)

Words by Lily Medosch, Interview by Derrick Pratt 

Finding free food that looks like what you’d eat at home has been a challenge for the Southeast Asian community during the pandemic. A typical food box might look something like this: hot dogs, canned vegetables, cereal, powdered milk. 

“When you open them, it’s catered towards the American household”, said Nary Kith, co-founder of KITHS Integrated and Targeted Human Services. “For the families we serve, they don’t eat any of that stuff.”

KITHS serves Cambodian refugees and Southeast Asian immigrants in the Logan neighborhood, providing services in an effort to help break the cycle of generational poverty among immigrant and refugee communities. KITHS Kitchen will feature a culturally affirming and accessible pantry, stocked with items key to many dishes, like fish sauce, lemongrass, water spinach and 25-pound bags of rice. 

(Photo courtesy of KITHS)

Food insecurity isn’t new to Philadelphia. In 2019, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization, Feeding America, found that 14.4% of people in Philadelphia County were food insecure. 

“Right now, people are telling us they’re good with SNAP benefits, but towards the end of the month is when they start to run out,” Kith said, having learned this as a result of the assessment they conducted with community members about food needs. 

(Photo courtesy of KITHS)

Giving people the food, knowledge and resources to make healthy meals is a priority of KITHS, in an effort to help combat the major health issues common amongst the Southeast Asian population that they serve – diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. 

Along with the food pantry, Nary Kith shared details about the community garden in the back of KITHS’ office which includes vegetables like eggplant, peppers, and scallions. Community members manage the beds, using rainwater to water the produce and all are welcome to pick as they please for the entire neighborhood. 

KITHS’s first monthly food distribution started in July and the organization will increase its distribution as needed by the community. 

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