Shawn, owner and founder of Cole's Coffee, partners with Central PA Food Bank.

While Cole’s Coffee may just seem like a cozy hangout that serves hot drinks and treats, it is so much more. This summer, Shawn (Cole’s Coffee founder and owner) has opened up her shop to be a children’s summer feeding center through the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank.

While the children would normally receive this food through the Summer Alive program, the camp is not running this year due to COVID-19. When Shawn heard this news, she knew she had to do something.

“When I found out that Summer Alive wasn’t going to happen this year, I said, ‘We can’t not have the kids fed,’” Shawn explains. “So now we take care of the kids. They come in, eat, and play.”

For five days each week, Shawn opens her doors to the low-income neighborhood’s children for lunch. The kids, who range from age 8 to 13, eat a nutritious meal together, complete with fresh fruits and vegetables. Afterwards, they usually stick around to play on the Wii or to complete a craft, always within reach of the free snack drawer in the corner. There are no set hours the children are allowed to stay in the shop — to Shawn, they are always welcome.

“Sometimes kids will come into the shop and say, ‘You’re not closing early, are you?’ The look on their faces when they get a meal — they just light up. That to me is amazing. These kids, I treat them like my own.”

At the end of the day, Shawn feels secure in the knowledge that she is sharing a lesson with the next generation — to treat others with kindness.

“It means a lot knowing that I’m going to change some lives. Even if it’s only one life, you know? I’m going to show these kids that there’s a better way. I’ve experienced a lot of hardships in my life, so I share my personal stories with them as well. I want to show them that you don’t have to stay in that rut. You don’t have to be to be homeless, or be on the verge of homelessness. Because look what I have now,” she says, smiling.

Food shouldn’t be an impossible choice. For many of us, a daily meal is just a choice about what to eat for dinner. For those facing hunger, a daily meal poses a very different type of choice. It is often an impossible choice between food and other critical needs such as utilities, housing or medicine.

This September, the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank is asking the public to LEARN, COMMIT, and SPEAK UP to address food insecurity. How will you choose to end hunger?

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This story was compiled by an NCPA staff reporter from submitted news. To see a list of our editorial staff please visit our staff directory.