DVFP Tackles Food Insecurity with Kids’ Choice Pantries

With the school day winding to a close, a student at Elkin Elementary School is deep in thought. With her bag almost full, she runs her eyes across all of the remaining options before her. Tuna? Black beans? Peanut butter? She settles on a can of chicken noodle soup. “My sister isn’t feeling well,” she says, “I’ll take this for her.”

Elkin is just one of the schools that Delaware Valley Fairness Project has brought Kids’ Choice pantries to in the past year. The initiative to put Kids’ Choice food pantries right inside the schools, that elementary and middle schools students can access directly, also began in Penrose School and Elkin Elementary during the 2017-2018 school year, serving about 75 households in total.

How much can going to school hungry affect a student’s performance? Research says: a lot. Hunger in school children has been linked to lower test scores, increased behavioral issues, and even adverse effects on cognitive development.

Statistics from Feeding America show that 21.7% of children in Philadelphia were food insecure in 2016. That’s over 4% higher than the national average, and means that more than 1 in every 5 students in a Philadelphia classroom is likely to be experiencing food insecurity.

There is no one definitive definition of food insecurity, but the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations defines food insecurity as “A situation that exists when people lack secure access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food for normal growth and development and an active and healthy life.”

For schools in more neglected parts of the city, like Penrose and Mitchell in Southwest Philadelphia, and Elkin in North Philadelphia, where 100% of the student population qualifies for free or reduced lunch, the problem is even worse.

Philadelphia has a reasonably large collection of food pantries to assist households experiencing food insecurity, and the Coalition Against Hunger has a useful resource for locating them. But what if an elementary school student doesn’t have parents who actively seek these resources? What if there are no adults home to cook when a student gets home from school? What if, for a school like Penrose, there are not an abundance of these resources nearby?

For reasons such as these, Delaware Valley Fairness Project began the initiative to put Kids’ Choice food pantries in schools, within easy reach of the students who need them the most. Students in especially food insecure households, ranging from Kindergarten to 8th grade, are identified by the teachers, counselors, and administrators. The students can access these pantries once a week and select from a variety of options, including ready-made snacks such as applesauce and cereal bars, as well as canned foods and other meals requiring preparation that can be brought home to their households.

The pantry options encourage students to pick out well-balanced meals that include protein items such as tuna and beans, grains such as pasta and rice, and fruits and vegetables ranging from carrots and green beans to diced tomatoes.

In the coming school year, we will be expanding the program to John Welsh Elementary School in North Philadelphia, and are still in search of more schools to take on Kids’ Choice pantries.

There is no quick fix to the systems that perpetuate hunger and food insecurity and these problems will not disappear overnight. However, by making food more readily accessible to the students most in need, these Kids’ Choice school pantries have the ability to “make life a little more fair,” one student at a time.

Sister-Schools: Mutually Beneficial Relationships That Open Minds

More than two years have passed since the community at Chadds Ford Elementary School in Delaware County read of the challenges facing Mitchell Elementary School in Philadelphia.   Moved by the stark difference between opportunities Chadds Ford students had versus those of their counterparts at Mitchell,  staff and parents of students at the Delaware County school contacted Mitchell to see how they could help.

From that first contact was born a vibrant, on-going relationship between the two schools from which each has benefited.   What started as a mission to supplement resources of the Philadelphia school and of the families served by the school, has become a two-way flow of information about initiatives underway at each and a pathway of communication between the students in the two communities.  The Chadds Ford friendship tree with messages of encouragement on student-made leaves is prominently on display at Mitchell, while the Mitchell friendship banner and a display case are featured at Chadds Ford.  

First-graders at the two schools have been exchanging journals introducing themselves to each other and representatives of Chadds Ford and Mitchell have been to each other’s school to learn from and give thanks to each other.

Delaware Valley Fairness Project has had the good fortune to be in the middle of this sister-school relationship as Mitchell’s partnership coordinator.  This has allowed us to build friendships at both ‘sisters’ and through those friendships to help create a new pairing between John Moffet Elementary School in Philadelphia and Hillendale Elementary in the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District.  We are now in discussions with an elementary school in New Jersey that has expressed an interest in having a sister school in Philadelphia, and are looking forward to meeting with staff and parents at other schools that would like to partner with an inner-city school.

My Grandfather Isn’t a Killer

Hope everyone read Madison Smith’s article in the Feb 2 Philadelphia Inquirer. As was noted, the article was written for Delaware Valley Fairness Project’s student essay program! Very proud of Madison!http://bit.ly/2ljNgU7


Mitchell Principal Stephanie Andrewlevich
Overbrook Educational Center
Principal Meredith Foote

Mitchell Elementary  and Overbrook Educational Center (OEC) are two of the K-8 schools in the Philadelphia School District.  They are very different schools.  Mitchell is a 100+ year old building in the city’s southwest Kingsessing neighborhood.  OEC is a newer building in the city’s Overbrook neighborhood.  Mitchell has some 700 students; OEC about 275.  Mitchell is one of the district’s turn-around schools. OEC has the district’s largest population of blind and visually impaired students.Stephanie Andrewlevich and Meredith Foote are the principals. Ms. A, as is she is known, is at Mitchell; Ms. Foote is at OEC.  In a certain sense, they have more in common than their schools.

Obviously both are women. In addition, each is in her second full year at her school.  Both were raised in the Philadelphia area: one in the city, one in the suburbs.

Each is 100% committed to her students.  Each demands compassionate high-level performance of the teachers and support staff in their schools.  Each is loved and respected by the students and each has a habit of telling every student she meets that she loves him or her.

DVFP has supported a number of projects in each of Mitchell and OEC.  We are comfortable doing so because we know that the energy and enthusiasm Ms. A and Ms Foote bring to their buildings multiplies the impact of our investment in their programs.

Leadership matters.  Good principals attract good teachers, create positive learning environments, and make for good schools.  Thanks to all the Ms. As and Ms. Footes out there.

Elizabeth Adeyi Joins Board of Directors

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The Delaware Valley Fairness Project is proud to announce that Elizabeth Y. Adeyi has been elected to the Board of Directors.  Elizabeth is the Executive Director of Child Care Information Services of Montgomery County, PA, and the former Eligibility Director of Child Care Information Services of South Philadelphia/Caring People Alliance.  She comes to our Board with over 20 years of professional management experience in social services in the Delaware Valley.

Elizabeth brings not only her extensive experience in management, but also her passion for helping the less fortunate in our communities.   As a visionary and collaborator, she has revamped a program to benefit families experiencing homelessness and launched a new program in Montgomery County to assist foster families with child care.  A leader and advocate in the early learning community, she has shown an uncanny understanding of needs and an ability to use data in program creation to bridge gaps in services.

Delaware Valley Fairness Project is very fortunate to have Elizabeth as the newest member of our team.  She can be reached at eadeyi@dvfairness.org.


Delaware Valley Fairness Project has agreed to fulfill a request from Keith Arrington, Principal of Thurgood Marshall Elementary School in North Philadelphia, for support of a Young Gentlemen (YGs) mentoring program.  The program uses music and the performing arts together with a 12-week curriculum to motivate at-risk students and improve their academic performance in areas such as reading comprehension and fluency, vocabulary knowledge, and presentation and staging skills.

The Young Gentlemen project was established by Loni Gamble, a music producer, songwriter and performer who has directed such programs in Williamsport for some 15 years.  His partner in curriculum development is Rafika Soaries.   The program at Thurgood Marshall was started last spring, but did not have the funding to continue this fall.

DVFP will assess the impact of the YG program on the attitudes and values of the participants through observations and before and after program questionnaires.


Roland Ananiglo is a coach and Grade 6 TA at Overbrook Education Center (OEC).  OEC is a Philadelphia public school that serves a student population of sighted and visually-impaired students.   With almost one-third of the students unable to read print without magnification, technology aides, enlarged text, or braille, OEC has the largest population of blind and visually impaired students in the Philadelphia School District.

Mr. Ananiglo applied to Delaware Valley Fairness Project for supplies to bring together sighted and visually-impaired students to play on the first OEC school soccer team.  As he noted in his application,  OEC was authorized to have a team but had no supplies and serves a population that cannot afford the uniforms and equipment that the children need to participate in sports.

On September 28, DVFP presented OEC and Mr. Ananiglo the funds he needed to launch his unique program. And just in time.  That afternoon the team had its first practice and five days later played its first game.

To learn more about OEC, follow oecjags on Instagram.


Delaware Valley Fairness Project (DVFP) and Mitchell Elementary School in Southwest Philadelphia are undertaking an initiative to build a coalition of Mitchell Partners to strengthen support for the school and the community.  Mitchell Principal, Stephanie Andrewlevich, convened a meeting of current partners on September 21 at which she stated her vision for Mitchell as an educational institution and as an engine for change within the community.  She also made clear her need for support from Mitchell’s partners to make the vision a reality.

DVFP president, Ed Riehl, then explained that DVFP approached Mitchell this summer with an offer to take on the role of forming a coalition of Mitchell partners. DVFP will coordinate the coalition’s effort to deliver the resources identified by Mitchell’s staff.

The more than twenty people who attended, including Deputy Mayor Nina Ahmad as well as representatives from the University of the Sciences, Wayne Presbyterian Church Devereux Behavioral Health and several local community organizations, expressed support and a willingness to do what is necessary to make this effort successful.  Others in attendance and supporting the undertaking were Spark Philadelphia, New Hope Philly, ASAP, Citylights and City Year.   Any organization with an interest in joining the coalition should contact DVFP at edward.j.riehl@dvfairness.org.

To keep abreast of events at Mitchell, check out the Mighty Mitchell Heroes page on facebook!

Why Fairness Matters

9y. Yorkship - Ms. Rojas Math Cards

Is there anyone who hasn’t heard a child, or an adult acting like a child, say, “It’s not fair”? Or how about the retort, “Well, sometimes life’s just not fair”? Sometimes there IS more ice cream in one bowl than another, or you DO have to work on a holiday, or someone else DOES get more credit than for something. It isn’t fair, but it also isn’t fatal. It’s more like a bump you have to endure along your journey. It really doesn’t matter.

That’s not the “fairness” for which we took our name, Delaware Valley Fairness Project. Ours is more the fairness that’s lacking for a child born into poverty, or for a wounded family without enough money for food and shelter. It’s what’s missing for the medically addicted, the mentally ill, the victims of discrimination and the countless unwanted in our communities. These are the people whose voices are silent but whose eyes tell us that it’s not fair, if we just look into them.

The unfairness these people suffer isn’t the bump in the road. It doesn’t go away after a day, week, or year. It’s life-defining, multi-generational, and what some would call systemic, And it’s harmful – to those who live it and to all the rest of us, too.

When unfairness flourishes, everyone is its victim. Consider drug addiction, violence, pan-handlers, the decrepit condition of streets and houses in economically distressed neighborhoods. Consider the taxes used to address these social conditions. Consider the fear engendered by the anger of the oppressed. These are the fruits of unfairness.

Delaware Valley Fairness Project’s mission is to lessen these effects by attacking their common root cause: poverty. Poverty limits human potential. Poverty limits human life span. It robs children of childhood. It crushes self-confidence. Poverty strips people of dignity. It gives rise to alternative means to survival, anti-social pathways to self-respect.

Poverty is unfair, and it is that unfairness we work against. Fairness matters because fairness would mean the end of poverty. Fairness means well-resourced schools for everyone, fair-paying jobs, and training to qualify for jobs. It means dignity for individuals, hope for families, childhood for children.

Fairness matters because everyone’s life becomes better. Dignity, hope, opportunity: better than drugs, violence, and slums. Think about it.

Chromebooks, a Fish Tank and Bookmaking in Southwest Philly



March 21 was an exciting day for DVFP and S. Weir Mitchell Elementary School in Philadelphia. At an assembly at the school that day, DVFP for the first time in its brief history fulfilled educator applications for classroom supplies, projects and class trips. DVFP founder Ed Riehl presented sixteen teachers with fulfillment awards for 11 Chromebooks, a dozen ‘boogie board’ eWriters, multiple sets of mythology books, a fish tank and the components for a desktop bookmaking center, among others. Funding was also provided to assist with the cost of a class trip to Washington, DC.

The Chromebooks will be used by the students to use specially-designed programs to improve their reading and math skills. The eWriters offer a creative approach to writing skills. The mythology books and bookmaking equipment are two innovative projects to enhance both the reading and writing skills of the students. The fish tank will make real the kindergartners’ study of living organisms, while teaching responsibility and compassion.

The Mitchell fulfillment awards are part of DVFP’s Educator Assistance Pilot Project intended to allow DVFP to determine whether the design of its Educator Assistance Program best meets its objective of improving learning opportunities for children living in impoverished neighborhoods. Convinced that education is the key to lessening the grip of poverty, DVFP’s education program is geared to strengthen schools serving economically distressed communities rather than looking to create alternatives to those schools.


The pilot project could only succeed with the collaboration of schools and teachers. Three schools were asked to participate and to become our Founding Partner Schools. Mitchell, being the first to accept DVFP’s invitation, is DVFP’s Founding Partner School Number 1. DVFP extends its thanks to everyone at Mitchell, but particularly to its Principal, Stephanie Andrelevich, who gave permission for the project, Tara Shaw-Caruso who serves as the project coordinator at Mitchell, and the fifteen other teachers who took the time to put together some very creative projects for DVFP to consider: Andrea Evans, Elizabeth Carroll, Keena Core, Nicole Flores, Dawnmarie Hackett, Lesley O’Brien, Jason Lerner, Rachel O’Day, Kenya Lassiter and the Special Ed Team, Emily Sharon, Tyesha Lewis, Charlena Watson, Kimberly Fail, Karen Burrell, and Allison Wudarski. Thanks to a great team!