Rooted in Haverford, Food4Philly expands and grows

Ethan Chan ’23 on Fox29 – Fox 29

On Friday, September 2, at 8:15 a.m., Sixth Former Ethan Chan was featured on Fox 29’s Good Day Philadelphia for co-founding Food4Philly, a nonprofit, student-led organization combating food insecurity in the Philadelphia region. 

“We had to get there 40 minutes prior to set up and get the right angles with the camera crew,” Chan said after the Fox 29 interview. “It felt nerve-wracking in the moment. There are thousands of people watching you.”

Food4Philly is entirely organized and run by high school students, many from the Main Line area. While it seeks to reach and alleviate food impoverishment in the Greater Philadelphia region and beyond, the organization has deep connections with the school community and the local neighborhood. 

“We have more than ten members within the Haverford community, from underclassmen to Sixth Formers,” Chan said. “Some of our partners are minutes from Haverford, such as the bakery shop Tous Les Jours right down Lancaster Avenue.”

To alleviate food poverty, Food4Philly takes two types of initiatives. They organize fundraisers at local restaurants, use the funds to purchase non-perishable food and materials to make fresh food, then host events to distribute the food at local churches and food banks. They also communicate with local bakeries and shops to save unsold, perfectly edible food at the end of the day and deliver this food to local churches. 

Sixth Former Arnav Sardesai is a member of the school’s Food4Philly chapter. He appreciates the experience of working at fundraisers and giving out food.

“We’d arrange fundraisers at different shops in the neighborhood, like Chipotle,” Sardesai said. “If anyone went to these restaurants between certain hours, a portion of those profits would go to Food4Philly. We then use the funds to buy cans of food. At the True Vine Worship Center in North Philly, we provided six tables full of non-perishable food for over 50 people.”

In addition to providing underserved communities with a balanced mix of canned meat and vegetables, members of Food4Philly also make fresh food to give out at events.  

“At the Old First United Church, we cooked over 50 breakfast sandwiches and had an industrial kitchen to ourselves,” Chan said. “We were able to help hundreds of people at the end of the day, and that was the most important accomplishment for the organization.”

Sometimes, the organization takes a more direct approach to bridge the gap between local restaurants with food surpluses and churches that can help give out food to those in need.

“A lot of restaurants threw away food in perfectly good conditions,” Chan explained. “Dunkin’ Donuts, Tous Les Jours… so we contact these shops to pick up their surpluses, and send these foods to the Memorial Church of God in Christ at Haverford, among other food banks.”

Deeply rooted in the community and its values, Food4Philly expands its constructive influence to other high schools in the region.

Group photo with Ethan Chan ‘23 and Arnav Sardesai ‘23 at Old first United church – courtesy of Ethan Chan ’23

“We have a chapter at Penncrest; we have a chapter at Episcopal,” Sardesai said. “There are so many people from these different schools all aiming to combat hunger, working together to achieve this goal. And that is really inspiring.”

After coverage from Fox 29, interested students and organizations reached out to Food4Philly, seeking cooperation. Chan envisions further expansion of the organization with an unchanged commitment to alleviating hunger.

“The opportunity to run a part of a non-profit corporation in high school is special, and I aspire for more students to get involved with their perspectives.”

Ethan Chan ’23

“As we continue to grow, it’s important to stay grounded in our mission,” Chan said. “Right now, we have chapters in Boston [Boston University] and the Bay Area [Palo Alto]. We hope to have more chapters in different areas. The opportunity to run a part of a non-profit corporation in high school is special, and I aspire for more students to get involved with their perspectives.”

Author: Jingyuan Chen '23

Jingyuan Chen has written for The Index since 2019. His news piece “Inside the middle school construction project” and his opinion “What can the U.S. learn from Chinese media censorship?” each earned a Silver Key from the 2020 Philadelphia-area Writing Awards.