Neumann University had food it would not be using, and families of Drexel Neumann Academy, a Catholic elementary school in Chester, had families who needed to eat. It was a simple problem to solve.
The Delaware County university is currently feeding seven students rather than its normal complement of more than 700 hungry students, according to Dr. Chris Domes, Neumann’s president.
Because of social distancing measures in effect to slow the spread of coronavirus, the vast majority of students in residence halls have returned home to finish the spring semester online.
With such a small number of resident students, the university had plenty of surplus food on hand.
Domes, who is also a member of the Drexel Neumann Academy board, contacted DNA President Alice Sylvester, asking if her school community could use the excess food. She welcomed the offer with open arms and an open car trunk.
Neumann University stepped in and provided eggs, cheese, vegetables, fruit and other perishable items. DNA representatives came to the Neumann campus March 24 and 25 to pick up the food.
“There is such a need out there. If we had anything we couldn’t use, I wanted to give it to a good charity,” said Rita Webster, interim general manager of Neumann’s dining services. “I’m so happy this happened.”
During a typical school year, DNA students receive free breakfast, lunch and two snacks a day, provided by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Nutritional Development Services. Fortunately, DNA is still receiving these food allotments for their students, but the need for food has extended into the wider Chester community.
“The tricky part for us became how to feed the whole family,” Sylvester said.
The news of newly available food donations spread quickly throughout the school community. Sylvester had signs placed around the school, and DNA teachers reached out to their students.
When one family could not get to the school to pick up the food because they didn’t have a car, Sylvester was more than eager to make a home delivery.
“I can’t tell you the relief the mom had when I brought the food to her door,” said Sylvester.
The relationship between DNA and Neumann University has deep roots. Neumann is one of the academy’s sponsors, and both institutions are founded on the values of St. Francis of Assisi. The students visit each other’s campuses for various enrichment activities and student teaching experiences.
“One of the core values of any Franciscan institution is service,” said Domes, “and Neumann University is privileged to be able to serve Drexel Neumann Academy families in a time of need.”
“It’s always been a great partnership with Neumann University, and this is a good lesson for our kids on how to give back and how to be kind,” said Sylvester.
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