Project Hope: Helping to feed needy families
For more than 30 years, Project Hope of Easton has provided a winter holiday dinner for some 600 persons in need in the Lehigh Valley. This spring, the 501(c)(3) charity is expanding its efforts to feed the hungry in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Project Hope is helping provide food to families with children now unable to access lunches through the Easton and Wilson schools that closed last month. The new program provides weekly pizzas and meals to those with vouchers that are given out at local shelters and food pantries
The pizza is being made by Pat Crisci, owner of Antonio’s Pizzeria on Third Street in Easton, where 30 pies were handed out curbside for the first time on April 1. As of April 25, 70 families with a minimum of four members, and 20-25 individuals were receiving meals, according to Judy Walker, co-chair of the Project Hope 10-member board of directors.
Walker said the charity is working with the Family Connection Program of the Easton School District to identify and pass out meal vouchers.
Before the pandemic, Walker said the plan was to work with The Hunger Coalition of Easton to hold a summer picnic-style kickoff event to disseminate information on the availability and locations of free summer meals and activities for children. About 12 local service groups and organizations were to man tables with activities and information at the event at Our Lady of Lebanon Church in Easton.
At the time, “70 percent of students in Easton were eligible for food assistance,” Walker explained, “but only a small number had been accessing the schools’ summer food programs.”
The hope was that the kickoff event would generate much more participation.
“That planning all came to an abrupt halt in early March when school was canceled along with most of our ‘normal lives,’” according to Walker. When that happened, she said her board came up with the new plan to help out.
Walker said the latest effort is to get more downtown Easton restaurants involved in the program. So far, seven restaurants have joined the effort and are being paid $20 for each family meal they provide. “Getting them to prepare meals and paying them for their participation is a way to help keep them open,” according to Walker.
As for the future, she said, “We hope to be able to continue at least until the end of May, or even throughout the crisis, but that depends on how much support we get. We depend on our sponsors and donors entirely to support this initiative. We are very grateful to those who have given thus far, and hope to receive even more support.”
Donations may be sent to Project Hope of Easton, P.O. Box 3785, Easton, PA 18043-3785.