PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies kicked off their 2013 Phans Feeding Families summer hunger relief program on Wednesday at Citizens Bank Park.
In partnership with Citizens Bank, the Halladay Family Foundation, Philabundance and various other sponsors, this is the third year the team is making an effort to collect food and money for families in the area. In the first two years of the program, fans and community members donated enough to give almost 400,000 meals to families in need.
"The support we get from our fans on this effort is tremendous because they have identified this issue, along with the organizations represented here, as something extremely important to all of us," Phillies president David Montgomery said.
The Halladay Family Foundation is that of Phillies starter Roy Halladay. And while the two-time Cy Young Award winner is rehabbing his injured right shoulder at Phillies facilities in Clearwater, Fla., he did supply a video message at the event that will be carried by local media outlets throughout the season.
Halladay is also scheduled to appear at the Phillies' "Party with a Purpose" event Saturday, Aug. 17. Fans can purchase tickets to the event, with proceeds going to the hunger relief initiative.
Fans can also help the cause by bringing a non-perishable food item to the ballpark on July 13, Aug. 8 or Aug. 17; buying a limited-edition pin and by making a monetary donation at phillies.com/feedingfamilies.
President and executive director of Philabundance Bill Clark said that the need to help hungry families in the Delaware Valley has doubled in the last few years. Philabundance serves about 65,000 people per week, but Clark said there are many more who need the help of people in the area.
"In the Delaware Valley, these are our families, our friends, our neighbors, and I'm sure a majority of them are also Phillies fans," Clark said. "So this really is a community group that we have to deal with this problem."
At the event, Citizens Bank had Phillies ball girls present a $40,000 check to Philabundance to get this year's program started. Daniel Fitzpatrick, president and CEO of Citizens Bank for Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, noted how vital the Phillies' support is in the effort against hunger, and called the team the "glue that brings it all together."
Fitzpatrick capped off the event by placing a "Feeding Families" pin on the Phillie Phanatic, but first he noted why the program is crucial at this time of year.
"You think about many of the young people in our city, in our region, the best meals they get are when they go to school," Fitzpatrick said. "So this need is so important."
Stephen Pianovich is an associate reporter for MLB.com.