Even after eight years as executive director of the St. Christopher’s Foundation for Children, Jan Shaeffer is still awestruck by poverty’s grip on parts of Philadelphia. One night, after a dinner with friends at a restaurant near her Center City office, it dawned on her how much money they’d spent—and the idea for “Dine In, Help Out” was born.
It’s a simple concept: Friends and families forgo a night out to host dinner at home, donating what would’ve been spent to St. Christopher’s.
The money raised supports the Farm to Families program. Launched in June 2010, it provides fresh produce and vegetables at a nominal cost while educating families in North Philadelphia about healthy eating options. “Participating in this initiative is a nice reminder for families and friends to recognize how fortunate we are to have the means to dine out at nice restaurants, and to remember those who face major financial challenges,” says Shaeffer, a former Bryn Mawr resident who’s since moved to Philadelphia’s Fairmount section. “It’s great to be able to do something at home with friends and family.”
Since the launch of Farm to Families, more than 1,800 individuals have registered with the program. The family members represented total 5,700. Last year, 600 donors—many of them Main Liners—hosted or attended dinner parties as a part of Dine In, Help Out. Shaeffer is making it her mission to increase that number by encouraging companies and organizations to get involved on a larger scale.
“There’s no other program like it in this area,” she says. “It’s so crucial that we don’t ignore what’s happening right in our city.”