In August of 2015, mother of five and outgoing PTO President, Christine Drexler, noticed the changing demographic of Derry Township and witnessed a growing number of children accessing food subsidization in schools. Christine realized that accessing proper nutrition on days that children were not in school was an overlooked challenge for these children and their families. So, she met with the Derry Township School Superintendent and the Food Service Director and pitched the idea of a weekend food assistance program for students K-12 facing food insecurity.
With their support, she embarked on what would be an incredible labor of love that would change her life, as well as many in the community, forever. She asked 10 friends to join her in fighting for the welfare of these children and between them, they provided the start up funds. She shared the idea with the Hershey Middle School Principal who offered to provide space for the project. A domino effect followed resulting in a collaboration of support and Cocoa Packs was born.
With the evolution of Cocoa Packs, and a greater understanding of the struggles of the Cocoa Packs participants, additional supports have been added to the programming. Cocoa Packs witnessed that supporting the participants of the program required an expanded mission that includes the enhancement of both emotional and physical wellness.
Cocoa Packs developed as a result of a concerned community with a desire and passion to care for its own children and does not receive any State or Federal funding. All funds, space, and in kind services and products have been donated.
On Wednesday, November 24, 2021, we celebrated the 6th anniversary of the first time weekly Cocoa Packs were distributed to children.
We've grown from 92 packs that first week to over 1400 today, plus all of the additional programs added over the years that have resulted in transformational work and profound impact on the children we assist.
The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic
Early 2020 | Pre-COVID
In it’s 4th year of operations, Cocoa Packs had grown from assisting 92 children to 535 children on a weekly basis out of the Hershey Middle School location.
With the sudden onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and mandated school closures, Cocoa Packs operations had to shift gears quickly and temporarily relocate to Spring Creek Church of the Brethren.
Spring and Summer 2020
As Cocoa Packs transitioned back to the Middle School and continued to adapt to additional safety measures, enrollment continued to grow rapidly as a result of the pandemic’s impact on the community.
Late Fall 2020
As COVID cases surged and schools closed once again, Cocoa Packs once again had to relocate, and quickly, to warehouse space at 1016 Old West Chocolate Avenue to be able to maintain continuity of operations. Out of space in the Middle School, Cocoa Packs Clothing Closet also moved into 1016 Old West Chocolate Avenue.
By the end of the year, Cocoa Packs was assisting nearly 900 children each week. Seeing the rapid growth of need and food insecurity, Cocoa Packs took a leap of faith and became a distributor for the USDA Farmers to Families program to help anyone facing food insecurity.
2021 - Present
By the end of the USDA program in the Spring of 2021, nearly 34,000 boxes had been distributed by Cocoa Packs.
In January of 2021, enrollment had now doubled in just twelve months to 1,100 children and continued to surge to now over 1,400 children across five counties and 17 school districts.