My name is Veronica Carden, but some of you may know me as the “peanut butter princess.” I am a 31 year old born and bred Philadelphian, and the founder of my dream come true, Club Sandwich Philly. Club Sandwich provides meal support, harm reduction training, safer sex kits, and community outreach throughout Philadelphia. What started as a one-woman operation delivering 30 lunches a week by bike has grown into a registered 501c3 with the vague mission statement to remind everyone we meet that they matter, regardless of where you are, you are loved. Club Sandwich began one year ago when the world began panicking.
I haven’t always been the peanut butter princess, in March of 2020 I was a paralegal in Center City. Like many of you, I was sent home from my Center City office building with vague instructions to “stay home.” I was confused, afraid and lonely. I have lived alone since the day after graduating high school and haven’t returned “home” in 13 years. I was able to do that because I have made an untraditional, yet loving home where I am – through the spirit of community and mutual aid.
To me, mutual aid is trust and resilience in community. It is reciprocal and recognizes that we can all need help and offer help simultaneously. Mutual aid uses direct action and works to support the needs of our community in many ways that our existing systems simply cannot. Mutual aid saved my life. I, like many of you, have been failed by the systems put in place to protect us. My mom suffers from untreated mental illness and my father is an addict. I have sought help my whole life and I have only found it through mutual aid. In March of 2020 the very systems put in place to help us began to crumble. Virtually all of Philadelphia’s city operated meal sites curtailed services, creating the need for mutual aid groups like Club Sandwich.
Perhaps you have not yet heard of a new business venture that threatens to interrupt the Philadelphia food ecosystem and harm mutual aid programs. An app called “Too Good to Go,” which originated in Denmark and just came to America, rolled out in Philly less than a week ago. TGTG is a for profit corporation aiming to sell previously free surplus food from restaurants and grocers. Presently, the app charges $1.39 per meal sold through the platform in addition to $59 annually from all involved food distributors. TGTG claims to be accessible yet they advertise and operate solely online and in English. They have made a home in only Philadelphia’s wealthiest zip codes and offer no delivery option for Philadelphians facing mobility issues. Too Good to Go needs to go.
Philadelphia is the poorest major city in America but we are rich in community. TGTG threatens to infiltrate our already delicate food system for nothing more than profit. They are not from here, they do not know us and they offer no benefit to our already struggling home. Their profits already earn them a shocking $134.2M per year. Philadelphia has no room for transplants eager to make a quick buck off our current social and economic disparity. As a community we have worked tirelessly to protect and feed each other and we didn’t need an app to do it. Leave Philly Alone.
Mutual aid is strong and ready to act in untraditional ways to meet the needs of our most vulnerable. Philadelphia is the city of familial love, grit and mayhem. We are strong and we keep us safe. COVID-19 forced our resilience in ways that we have never felt before and in true Philadelphia fashion we fought like hell.
In 11 months Club Sandwich Philly has fed 38,000 food insecure Philadelphians. We are for community and powered by community. We are self-funded and hand distribute all of our meals. The success of free food for free people is largely dependent on working relationships with local restaurants and grocery stores. We do not make any money and we do not charge for our food we are just Philadelphia feeding Philadelphia.
Mutual aid is never for-profit.