You Fed Me

Faculty / Staff // December 30, 2021

HOPE is both the name and the purpose of an organization which provides supplemental food to at-need children in the seven Chester County public schools. Begun approximately 10 years ago by the late Hope Shull, former FHU librarian, the program provides food to fill backpacks for 150 children each Friday.

Members of the FHU library staff, along with members of Social Work Students in Action, meet monthly to fill the plastic bags. A typical bag contains mac and cheese; cereal or oatmeal; tuna; chicken; a meal in a can, such as Beef-A-Roni or Spaghetti-Os; fruit or granola bars; peanut butter or cheese crackers; applesauce or fruit cups; and soup.

“We love helping to pack the bags,” Dr. Nadine McNeal, social work professor, said. “Social workers are social servants, and we want our students to be actively involved in serving their communities.” In addition, it helps social work majors to understand the reality of various types of needs, she added. Except for June and July, a social work class assists with the food-packing every month. In those months when students are not on campus, community helpers fill in.

"A committee comprised of community members, including educators, work in partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank to provide the supplemental food," Shirley Eaton, a member of the FHU library staff, said. In addition, the organization hosts a 5-K Race for HOPE each year and individuals and churches contribute funds. Although the backpacks are filled at FHU, Eaton stresses that this is a community program. “We have volunteers from the community as well as FHU students,” she said.

Guidance counselors and teachers identify at-need children and provide the committee with the number of food bags needed. Filled bags are delivered to schools and counselors discreetly distribute them, according to Eaton.

As an officer in Social Work Students in Action (SWSA), Kayla Hunter has been motivated to participate because she believes “that part of helping students to have an equal start in school is ensuring they are fed.” SWSA’s former efforts to reach out to the community had been hampered by COVID-19. “After learning this program was FHU led, we certainly wanted to be involved,” Hunter said. “I know social work students appreciate the opportunity to have a hands-on impact on the lives of others.”

As for that name, Project HOPE, the acronym stands for Helping Other People Eat. It certainly does that. Additionally, it fosters hope in those who receive the food and, not so incidentally, it honors and continues the legacy of Hope Barber Shull.