Montco SAAC

Montgomery County, PA

Montgomery County is locally referred to as Montco. It is the thirdmost populous county in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, after Philadelphia and Allegheny Counties. The county was created on September 10, 1784, out of land originally part of Philadelphia County. It is believed to have been named for Richard Montgomery, and American Revolutionary War general killed in 1775 while attempting to capture Quebec City, Canada. The county seat is in Norristown, where our What A Waste project was located. Montco is rich in academic life as it is the home to approximately 16 colleges or branches of other colleges and universities. Among the Montco colleges are Bryn Mawr College, Haverford College, and the Westminster Theological Seminary.

Norristown is located 15 miles northwest of Philadelphia along the banks of the Schuylkill River. The land from which Norristown was founded was acquired by the family of Isaac Norris, a prominent Quaker merchant and former mayor of Philadelphia, during the early 1700s. Norris purchased the land directly from William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, as a retreat from the hustle and bustle of the growing city center of Philadelphia.

In 1784, Norristown was named the county seat of government by a collection of communities. Throughout the 1800’s and early 1900’s, Norristown developed into a thriving industrial and retail center. Factories, textile mills, icehouses, foundries, and lumber yards all called Norristown home and provided ample employment for skilled laborers and artisans.

Norristown has a rich history of producing some very famous folks from UConn’s women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma to actress Maria Bello and actor Peter Boyle to two baseball greats: Tommy Lasorda (Los Angeles Dodgers) and Mike Piazza (NY Mets Hall of Famer).

Our What A Waste program in Norristown was the Senior Adult Activities Center of Montgomery County (Montco SAAC). They selected their senior center in Ambler, PA, to host the project.

Montco SAAC serves an average of 77 people per day through their congregate meals programs. The population served by Montco SAAC is quite diverse and participants live in urban/suburban areas where many face food insecurity. For example, in Norristown, 9.1% of the population is over 60, and 11.8% of individuals in that age group fall below the poverty line. Montco SAAC uses an outside caterer for their senior nutrition programs. Meals are prepared remotely in Philadelphia and delivered daily to the three sites of operation.

The Associate Director of Montco SAAC, Whitney Lingle said of this project: “Taking part in What A Waste was a catalyst to build multiple community partnerships. Montco SAAC was recognized for best practices by the State of Pennsylvania for innovation in our congregate lunch program. The community partnerships, projects like our superfoods cookbook series, recipe demonstrations and community education on composting food waste enriched our program and positioned both staff and participants to be more active in the local food system.”

“By engaging our members in diverting food waste,” she went on to say, “and discussing the results from the What A Waste nutrition analysis, we were able to reach a new level of dialog about environmental sustainability. The group took on a higher level of ownership over their menu design and loved working together to suggest meals, plant seed, and distribute the produce they grew this summer.”

Montco SAAC chose as its What A Waste site the senior center in Ambler, PA. Ambler is a borough in Montgomery County and is located approximately 16 miles north of the city center of Philadelphia.

The results of the What A Waste project in Ambler, PA follow:

Average food waste per day decreased by 18%.
By the end of the project the center had decreased their over ordering to less than 1 meal per day.
Attendance increased at the center.
Pan and plate waste were both reduced.
The center engaged multiple partners: Whole Foods and Lowe’s supported procurement of equipment and supplies necessary for gardening; Eagle Scouts built the raised-bed gardens; local farm-to-table restaurant took the center’s food waste once a week and composted it. They then returned the finished compost for gardening.

There is no question that our friends at Montco SAAC and the Ambler senior center did a great job on the What A Waste project. They’ve definitely earned another great Philly Cheesesteak.

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