Heart, Soul, & Ce­real

Af­ter meet­ing fam­i­lies who couldn’t af­ford to put food on the ta­ble, Me­gan Shea and Chip Heim started The Soul­full Project, a “buy one, give one” line of hot ce­re­als

Better Nutrition - - TREND WATCH - By Neil Zevnik

“Vi­sions of sug­arplums danc­ing in their heads.” At this fes­tive time of year, the lucky among us are hap­pily en­joy­ing an ar­ray of hol­i­day treats. But the spirit of the sea­son also en­cour­ages us to be aware of those less for­tu­nate— es­pe­cially when it comes to food.

Over 40 mil­lion Amer­i­cans are “food in­se­cure,” which is defi ned by the USDA as “a house­hold- level eco­nomic and so­cial con­di­tion of lim­ited or un­cer­tain ac­cess to ad­e­quate food.” This means that al­most 13 per­cent of Amer­i­can house­holds, in­clud­ing 13 mil­lion chil­dren, have to re­duce or skip meals and have lit­tle or no ac­cess to nu­tri­tious pro­vi­sions. And some­times, they go an en­tire day with no food at all.

When we see this con­di­tion por­trayed in Tiny Tim’s fam­ily in “A Christ­mas Carol,” it seems dis­tant and al­most charm­ing. But the re­al­ity is harsh and in­ju­ri­ous, and es­pe­cially painful dur­ing the hol­i­days, awash in so­ci­etal good cheer.

One pair of em­ploy­ees at food gi­ant Camp­bell Soup Com­pany found them­selves moved to make a diff er­ence.

It Started with Two Starv­ing Fam­i­lies

Me­gan Shea and Chip Heim were do­ing mar­ket re­search, vis­it­ing homes in Texas to learn about peo­ple’s food habits, when they en­coun­tered a fam­ily un­cer­tain about where to get their next meal. The pair de­cided to do some­thing about it.

But as Shea says, “A year went by, and we had done noth­ing. Life got in the way.” Then, late one night when they were work­ing at a ware­house in Cam­den, N. J., a mom and her kids came knock­ing at the door, ask­ing for food. And Shea and Heim were re­minded of their bro­ken prom­ise to help. That night, The Soul­full Project was born.

Hot Break­fast Ce­real for All

They hit upon the no­tion of cre­at­ing and sell­ing healthy hot break­fast ce­re­als that could be a part of a “buy one, give one” model in con­cert with food banks across the coun­try. For ev­ery serv­ing sold, The Soul­full Project do­nates a serv­ing of their Four Grain ce­real to a lo­cal food bank where the prod­uct was pur­chased. “Soul­full is about equal­ity,” says Heim. “Ev­ery­one de­serves to have good, whole­some food re­gard­less of [ how much money] they make.”

As of last Au­gust, The Soul­full Project had do­nated more than 1 mil­lion serv­ings. The ce­re­als are made with non- GMO, clean- la­bel in­gre­di­ents, and come in a va­ri­ety of sizes and fl avors, in­clud­ing Brown Su­gar Pecan Multi­grain Ce­real and Blue­berry Al­mond Multi­grain Ce­real.

For Shea and Heim, the con­nec­tion is per­sonal; they are de­ter­mined to vol­un­teer at all 200 of their food bank part­ners across the coun­try. “So far we have been to more than 100,” says Shay. “We’ve met the most amaz­ing peo­ple. They in­spire us and keep us go­ing.”

But even that’s not enough. “When you see a par­ent strug­gle to feed their chil­dren or you meet some­one who can’t aff ord their next meal, we feel like we aren’t mov­ing fast enough. We need to go faster, but we can’t do it alone. We need help and that’s why we called it a ‘ project.’ We are all in it to­gether, and to­gether we can make a real diff er­ence.” Now that’s the true hol­i­day spirit.

“Soul­full is about equal­ity,” says Heim, co­founder of The Soul­full Project. “Ev­ery­one de­serves to have good, whole­some food re­gard­less of [ how much money] they make.”

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