Feeding the Need

Thanks to a CHOP program, struggling local families can put dinner on the table

Published on

Children's View

During the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s not just the virus that strikes fear among families. For many who struggle financially and who’ve lost jobs and other sources of income, the worry is even more immediate: How will we feed our children?

A partnership between Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) is lessening that worry for families living in two PHA communities in West/ Southwest Philadelphia: Westpark Apartments and Bartram Village. “It’s a wonderful thing that Children’s Hospital is doing for families in need,” says Sylvia, who receives a free dinner when she picks up her 7-year-old grandson’s free breakfast and lunch at Bartram Village.

Making sure kids have adequate, nutritious food is part of CHOP’s broader mission to improve children’s health. This specific project is part of a donor-supported umbrella initiative, Healthier Together, which seeks to address nonmedical factors — such as poverty, housing, food insecurity and neighborhood safety — that play a huge role in determining if a child is healthy.

Healthier Together learned that, when schools closed for the rest of the academic year, PHA had opened distribution sites to keep providing free breakfast and lunch for children. But with food insecurity still the primary concern for families, CHOP reached out to Poor Richards Catering and funded this local, minority-owned business to prepare family dinners to be distributed at PHA sites.

Enough for a whole family

Trays of pre-made meals Over 10 weeks, Poor Richards made a total of 20,000 frozen, family-style meals for PHA families. The meals are large enough to feed up to five people.

Chicken parmesan, ziti with meatballs, turkey meatloaf, plus a daily vegetarian option are on the rotating menu. The project has the additional benefit of helping Poor Richards stay open, continuing to pay its employees, during the pandemic.

“We are most grateful to CHOP for assisting our residents during this global emergency,” says PHA President and CEO Kelvin Jeremiah. “Access to good, nutritional meals is critical for families to maintain their health.”

Sylvia echoes the sentiment and adds, “The food is really great, too. Every dinner has vegetables. My grandson loves them, and so do I.”

— Zan Hale