As part of the Philadelphia Food Justice Initiative (PFJI), Reinvestment Fund, in partnership with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and Wells Fargo, awarded grants to local organizations fighting food injustice. West Philly Bunnyhop was one of the grantees at the end of 2021.
One would be hard pressed to find anyone who cannot recall where they were and what they were doing in March 2020 when word spread that a lockdown was imminent due to COVID-19. When Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolfe ordered the state shutdown, fear, panic, shock, desperation and uncertainty gripped the region, as thousands experienced unexpected layoffs and job loss.
Among them were friends Katie Briggs and Jena Harris, two well-connected and experienced chefs in the Philadelphia food industry.
Wanting to do something productive with their time while assisting community members experiencing food insecurity, the two decided to do what they do best: Cook.
Tapping into their network, circles of friends and volunteers, the two showed up at the park on April 4, 2020, to distribute 50 quarts of homemade soup, toilet paper, fruits and vegetables, and PPE to whoever showed up. Out came the young and old, single people, and families, all made for a strong turnout. At the end of the distribution, Briggs looked at her friend and said, “That was great, let’s keep doing this.”
Thus began the West Philly Bunnyhop, a volunteer-led mutual aid group that champions “Free Food for the People”, no questions asked. Through it has been a framework that has worked in communities for decades, the concept of mutual aid gained widespread mainstream awareness during the pandemic when people sought meaningful ways to contribute and help out their neighbors—be it through monetary donations, picking up or preparing foods, volunteering their time, etc.