Eat Café : Opens For Business In West Philadelphia

by Nikia Brown

Each year, Philadelphia homeless outreach organizations engage over 5,500 individuals living on the streets or in abandoned buildings. About 12, 000 people, including families, seek shelter on a yearly basis. Additionally, nearly 1 in 4 people struggle with food insecurity in our city. The numbers are daunting and the demand for solutions boldly confronts policy-makers and community stakeholders alike. This fall, a Philadelphia non-profit will take an innovative approach to address these challenges.

E.A.T (Everyone at the Table) Café is a non- profit, pay-what-you-can café that creates a welcoming platform for community members to unite around. The Café endeavors to respond to the food insecurity crisis by providing nutritious, high quality meals for community members in targeted West Philadelphia neighborhoods: Belmont, East/West Parkside, Mantua, Mill Creek, Powelton Village, and West Powelton/Saunders Park.

eat-cafe-1The Café is a converted row home that seats approximately 30 people. It has stage seating space to accommodate anticipated community events, presentations, and programming. In the back of the Café, there is a patio that is open for dining and events during warm weather months.

Customers will be able to select from a varied menu consisting of three-course meals made from fresh ingredients. The organization’s mission is two-fold:

1) provide a hearty, affordable meal to customers and
2) foster an environment that is conducive for community engagement.

In addition to food service, the Café plans to offer a variety of activities, events, educational programming, and workforce readiness training.

This kind of business model, while inspiring, may leave people curious and hungry for answers. How will the restaurant operate? How will the said communities respond to this new business endeavor? The Café will function as any other restaurant would. Customers will receive a check with a suggested price after dining. They will have the option to pay the amount on the check, more than the amount on the check, or nothing at all. All of the funds collected from paying patrons will cover the cost for people who cannot afford to pay for their meal.

The projected success of the Café may be attributed to the key funders and community members who are at the table. E.A.T. Café is a collaboration between Drexel University’s Center for Hunger-Free Communities, the Vetri Community Partnership, Drexel’s Center for Hospitality and Sports Management, and the West Philadelphia community. Before launching this endeavor, the leadership of the enterprise surveyed community members from targeted neighborhoods to elicit feedback regarding the Café’s business methods and planned initiatives. The outflow of responses from focus groups and interviews, not only affirmed the need for the Café, but also how crucial community involvement would be to the success of the project.

To this end, the leadership created EAT Café’s Community Advisory Committee—an ongoing forum that garners input
from neighbors, community leaders and supporters. Data collected from these meetings will inform café operations, build connections and help staff prepare for future programming.

E.A.T. Café is clearly a new Philly enterprise that you want to keep your eyes on. It is a community-oriented restaurant that desires to make the tradition of Sunday family dinner accessible to all every day of the week. If you reside in one of the Café’s targeted neighborhoods and would like to participate on the Community Advisory Committee, you can contact the EAT Café staff at To learn more about EAT Café you can visit their website at or drop by the restaurant for their grand opening in September.

Urban Arboreta Coming To Parkside


by Nikia Brown


“We desire to create a profitable, sustainable nursery that meets market demands and provides job opportunities” champions Deenah Loeb, Director of City Parks Association. In spring 2017, West Parkside is expected to have its first urban arboreta. Scott Quitell, founder of LandHealth Institute, describes an arboreta as a woody area with plants, trees, or a small pond. A befitting name for West Parkside- an area surrounded by greenery and open natural spaces. To date, many community members view open spaces in urban areas as danger zones or a waste of land space. Loeb strongly contends with this notion, calling vacant lands “areas of opportunity—not blight.” She envisions the natural space opposite Parkside Avenue as a green hub capable of generating rich natural and physical resources for community members and the neighborhood as a whole.

The project is titled, “Urban Arboreta—a native plant nursery and urban oasis.” Currently it is supported by individuals and organizations with a vested interested in empowering communities through land revitalization. The Fairmount Park Conservancy, a large stakeholder in this project, believes that “parks can be catalysts for positive change in the city.” Their mission statement follows, “We believe better parks make our individual lives healthier, our neighborhoods safer, and our region more competitive.” Perhaps it is with this same impetus that the Knight Foundation awarded the City Park Association with the initial funding to implement the project 13 months ago.

The project plan includes building a natural area that consists of a nursery, public space, farmer’s market, and tree farm. Sarah Endriss of LandHealth Institute is excited about the new endeavor and speaks of the wealth of value this could add to student and community engagement.

A look at a gazebo in Fairmount Park West.
A look at a gazebo in Fairmount Park West.

She sees the arboreta as a space that is able to engage students where they are academically and developmentally. “Elementary school students are at an age where they are in a curious wander about their surroundings; junior high school students are at the stage where they are expanding their knowledge of self and their environment; and high school students are at the level where they are able to reproduce their knowledge through project-based learning,” she explains. Loeb and Endriss view the arboreta as a multi-faceted vehicle that conjoins educational programming with land revitalization initiatives.

oth Loeb and Endriss understand that the success of this project largely relies on support from members of Parkside community. The first of several planned community meetings was held on Thursday, August 11 near the horse stables where the site is projected to be built. Though the meeting was lightly attended, the community members and stakeholders present were “passionate and knowledgeable about environmental issues as well as the community they reside within,” said Loeb.

She hopes that the community would see the value in this project and desire to “develop something that is unique to their community and benefit its members.” The retail aspect of the nursery will naturally provide job opportunities for community members and generate a flux of income into the neighborhood that previously did not exist. The next meeting regarding the project will be held at Discovery Charter School on Tuesday, September 13 at 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm. All community members are invited to attend, as your voice will significantly inform the way in which the arboreta is developed and leveraged for community benefit.

Please Touch Museum To Celebrate 40 Years of Learning Through Play

PHILADELPHIA, PA – Please Touch Museum – the iconic Philadelphia landmark located in Fairmount Park’s historic Memorial Hall – will ring in its 40th birthday on October 2 with a celebration of its long legacy and bright and vibrant future. In honor of its 40 years of providing children opportunities to learn through play, the Museum will offer all guests 40 percent discounted admission to the birthday celebration. 1976 is the year the Please Touch Museum opened in Philadelphia, and the Museum’s Kids Shop will feature toys from each decade of the past 40 years. The 40th birthday party will include a presentation by Mayor Jim Kenney, live music and performances, and dancing with Philadelphia-based dancer and choreographer Roger Lee. The Museum will open on October 2 at 11 a.m. and close at 5 p.m.

“Throughout the past 40 years, the Please Touch Museum has followed our founders’ vision to serve as a champion of early childhood learning and the leading voice for the power of purposeful play for children,” said Patricia (Trish) Wellenbach, President and Chief Executive Officer, Please Touch Museum. “This birthday celebrates our legacy, but most importantly, provides us an opportunity to celebrate the vibrant future of this museum, which will thrive and continue to provide magical moments for children and their families for 40 more years and beyond.”

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Founded in 1976 by Montessori educator Portia Speer, Please Touch Museum has flourished into a nationally- recognized premier children’s museum with unparalleled expertise in early childhood education and play, welcoming millions of visitors through its doors in 40 years. The Museum began as a 2,200-square-foot pilot project in Philadelphia’s Academy of Natural Sciences, and expanded in 1978 to a larger space at 1910 Cherry Street. In 1983, the Museum Board of Directors approved the purchase and renovation of a three-story, 30,000-square-foot building at 210 North 21st Street. After establishing its roots here, the Museum grew attendance by 70 percent and memberships by 52 percent, and earned accreditation by the American Alliance of Museums. Before long, the Museum expanded its exhibit space by 40 percent by purchasing the building adjacent to it on North 21st Street.

While approaching its 30 year anniversary, the Please Touch Museum Board of Directors began an extensive, three-year restoration of historic Memorial Hall, which was beautifully concepted and constructed in Fairmount Park for the 1876 Centennial International Exhibition, the first World’s Fair in the United States. In 2008, the doors opened to the Museum’s new home, which features a restored carousel from 1903-1908 and the iconic 40-foot replica of the Statue of Liberty’s arm and torch, handcrafted with common items such as children’s toys by famed artist Leo Sewell, that greets every visitor upon entering Memorial Hall.

“We are excited to commemorate such an important milestone for an institution that is so deeply rooted into the hearts and minds of our community’s families,” concluded Wellenbach. “Everyday, we have the distinct privilege of watching grandparents and parents relive their favorite Please Touch Museum memories here again with the newest members of their families, and we encourage all generations who have been touched by this wonderful place to join us in celebrating 40 magical years of learning through play.”

About Please Touch Museum
Please Touch Museum is dedicated to enriching the lives of children by creating learning opportunities through play. Recognized locally and nationally as one of the best children’s museums, Please Touch Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Sundays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $17 for adults and children age one and over. Children under one are free. For more information, please call 215-581-3181, or visit our website at

Alice Emerson 267-449-4039
Amanda Michelson 610-455-2757 (O) 609-417-7077 (C)

Viola Alley Connector Project — UPDATE

by Michael Burch

In our last Parkside Journal, we reported that the Viola Street Resident’s Association (VSRA) was among several finalists in Philadelphia, for the Knight Foundation Cities Grant. Their plan was to transform a little used alley in their neighborhood and turn it into a community focal point. Well, as we reported they did not receive the grant and future plans for this space were put on hold. That is until recently. The idea was such a good one that a variation of the plan has been picked up by other interested parties.

Now spearheaded by our own Centennial Park CDC & Viola Street Residents Association (VRSA) a unique partnership has formed between Penn Praxis, Bartram Gardens, The Fairmount Park Conservancy, The Free Library, Reading Terminal, and Philadelphia Horticultural Society. With funding from the Knight Foundation they have come together to bring us: “The Viola Alley Connector Project. The Connector project seeks to a create a place where residents and others can gather, share stories, share food, watch movies and reconnect as a community. The First session in the Viola Alley Connector series is planned for September 24, 2016 from 11am. – 4pm. For more information go to the Centennial Park CDC Website at

Philly Free Streets is Coming!

The first Philly Free Streets program is scheduled for Saturday, September 24, from 8am–1pm! Mark your calendars, share within your network!

Did you know that Mayor Kenney recently announced a new people-powered initiative of the City of Philadelphia? Philly Free Streets temporarily closes a designated street route to cars, so that people can enjoy the street to walk, bike, exercise, and play. Led by the Managing Director’s Office of Transportation & Infrastructure Systems (oTIS), Philly Free Streets highlights the intersection of active transportation (walking and biking) and public health.


The route will run from Front & South to the South Street Bridge, to the Schuylkill River Trail and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, and onto West Fairmount Park—for a 10-mile car-free route. You are welcome to enjoy all 10 miles, or to jump in along the way—there’s no formal start or finish!

Along the route, the Philly Free Streets team is working hard to program family-friendly activities that are centered on healthy lifestyles, fitness, art, culture, the environment, and social services. There also will be a family-friendly celebration in West Fairmount Park, highlighting Philadelphia talent. No matter your interests, Philly Free Streets offers something for everyone! Find out more at

All School Lunches Are Not Created Equal

by Taylor Sanders-Palmer

It’s that time of year again! The store shelves are stocked with notebooks, binders and Post-Its while colorful and eye-catching banners promote ‘Back to School Deals!’. Parents are certainly aware of the supplies that their children should be taking to school but do they also know what kind of food is being served at lunch time.

Of course its no question that the students in Philadelphia are extremely lucky to receive free breakfast and lunch. Since 2014 the School District has been providing free lunches and breakfast. The free meals programs are covered by the Federal Government and the Pennsylvania Department of Education. conducted a campaign called ‘Fed Up’ that focused on the quality of food being served to students under the Free and Reduced Lunch Programs. The campaign’s goal is to ensure that these children are receiving food with the correct amount of nutrients so they can function better and be more productive in the classroom. (Various studies have shown there is a strong relationship between healthy nutritious meals and student achievement).


Members of, a nationwide youth group, were asked to post pictures of their lunches and vote “would you eat it or toss it?”. The results of this inquiry showed that 70% of school meals were deemed unsatisfactory. Extensive conversations with a few Philadelphia students from various elementary and secondary schools resulted in frank and illuminating comments regarding their cafeteria experiences. The results we received were mixed. Most students complained about taste, but how do you balance good taste with good nutrition.

We are facing ever-increasing rates of childhood obesity as we usher in the start of a new school year. What should (or can) our schools and parents be doing to improve lunch programs in order to help combat the rising numbers of unhealthy students in our classrooms? In 2012, Michelle Obama challenged and encouraged parents and schools to feed children more fruit and vegetables and less processed foods, and to increase their whole grain intake. Many schools in Philadelphia have stepped up to this challenge by partnering with Vetri Community Partnerships whose vision or slogan is HEALTHY BODY + HEALTHY MIND = HEALTHY LIVING. Their mission is to help children and their families live healthier life styles through the use of “fresh food, hands on experience, and education”. More information about this organization’s initiative or about partnering with YOUR child’s school can be found at You may also call (215) 600-2630 for additional information.

The Journal is interested in learning what its readers have to say regarding this important issue. What changes (if any) would you like to see implemented regarding the meals and nutritional programs in our schools?

Spring and Fall College Tour Opportunities

by Michael Burch

For young people today making that first college decision it can almost be called a traumatic experience for the student and his or her family. A key part of deciding which college to go to is finding a good college fit. The best way for families to get firsthand information is to visit colleges in person. Reading a college catalog, websites and brochures will not tell you the whole story about your perspective school. College visits are the way to go but they can be expensive.

One solution that may help students living in our area make this decision is called the College Tour Program that Pastor Joe Nock of Second Antioch Baptist Church has run for many years now. Pastor Nock has over 20 years of experience in ministry as a preacher ,teacher,counselor, conference speaker and mentor. Since 2001. He has been the Senior Pastor of Second Antioch Baptist Church. Pastor Nock found the time to sit down with me and answer some questions about this great program.

Parkside Journal: Pastor Nock where did the idea to develop a College Tour program for the families of Philadelphia come from?
Pastor Nock: I developed my College Tour program after attending a College Tour as a Chaperone with a group of Presbyterian Church’s in Philadelphia. I saw areas where I could improve the tour experience and to expand it to twice a year, so I started a tour with the sponsorship of Calvary Baptist Church in West Philadelphia.

Parkside Journal: How long have you been running the College Tour program? Pastor Nock: I have been running the tour for eighteen years.

Parkside Journal: Are these tours open to residents all over Philadelphia or just in West Philadelphia?
Pastor Nock: High School Students have attended our tours from Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey.

Parkside Journal: During the Tour who do students meet with at the university, is it students, administrators, or instructors?
Pastor Nock: During most tours we meet with the Admissions Department, Tour Guides, and former students of our tours when available. Occasionally we will meet with administrators, special program directors, and instructors if we have contacts at the schools

Parkside Journal: What kind of follow up takes place after the visit?
Pastor Nock: A few of our chaperones will stay in contact with the High School Juniors and Seniors. They will also help them with applications, grant and scholarship information, and advice to parents regarding the Financial Aid process.
Parkside Journal: These are overnight trips right? Where do students sleep during the trip, in dorms at the colleges or in local hotels?
Pastor Nock: Students sleep in deluxe hotels with only two students to a room, unless they request otherwise.
Parkside Journal: You must have help or chaperones who go with you, are they members of Second Antioch also?Pastor Nock: Second Antioch Baptist Church has retired educators that serve as chaperones and parents are offered a discount to serve as chaperones. They are not required to room with their children and typically share a room with other adult chaperones

Parkside Journal: Do you visit primarily Historically Black Universities?
Pastor Nock: We do not restrict our tours to only Historically Black Universities. It is our goal to provide tours that will give the students an opportunity to experience a variety of institutions of higher learning.

Parkside Journal: How many children do you usually take on a typical trip?
Pastor Nock: Recently, we have been averaging twenty students per tour. In the past, we have taken up to two buses of students on the tours.

Parkside Journal: Can family members accompany their children on the Tour?
Pastor Nock: Adult Family members are allowed to accompany their children on the tour if they are willing to serve as a chaperone.

Parkside Journal: What about outcomes, do the students who attend the Tours end up enrolling in some of these universities? If so, do you have any percentages?
Pastor Nock: We have many students who have attended the Tours that have been accepted during their visits. The biggest challenge is the affordability of the Universities. Most students attend the tours and often end up at local Universities. Often times, students wait too late to apply for school and this prevents them from earning scholarships. We sponsor a Fall tours primarily for Seniors and upper classmen and Spring Tours fall all students in order to help them gain exposure to the College experience.

Parkside Journal: What is the cost to attend the College tour?
Pastor Nock: The cost is approximately $250.00 for three days and scholarships are available. It includes most meals, lodging, motor coach, and security at the hotels.

Parkside Journal: Do you have dates planned for the 2017 college tour yet?
Pastor Nock: Our tours typically take place at the end of October for the Fall Tour and the beginning of the Easter Week for the Spring Tour.

Parkside Journal: Thank you Pastor Nock for taking the time to talk to our readers. The Fall College Tour orientation will take place on September 24th. at 11amat Second Antioch Baptist Church. For more information call 215-387-6774.

News that is from, about, and benefits our Parkside Community in West Philadelphia.