A simple and soulful way to feed the hungry | Crain's Portland

A simple and soulful way to feed the hungry

While on a work trip, Megan Shea and her colleague, Chip Heim, broke a promise they made to a hungry mom with young kids.

About a year later, they launched a business to make up for it.

The Soulfull Project, a Certified B Corporation, is a mission-focused startup dedicated to making high-quality, nutritious food more accessible to those in need. For every serving of their multigrain hot cereal that is purchased, they donate a serving of their 4 Grain Blend to a food bank in that region.

In the past 17 months, the company has grown from 150 points of distribution to 1,600 in nine regions of the country, including 200 food banks. As of mid-February, Soulfull has accumulated more than 500,000 donated servings of cereal.

“Chip and I were inspired by a family we met that lived hand to mouth. We made a promise we would figure out a way to provide more than just extra food and money for this family, and others like them,” Shea recalls. “But we got back on the plane, went back to our kids and our lives, and didn’t follow through on that promise until we encountered another hungry mom and remembered our promise.

“We worked nights and weekends to come up with a way to allow people to realize the impact they could have. We created a company where your everyday purchases help a neighbor in need, and you feel really good about what you’re buying for yourself and making a difference in the lives of others.”

Soulfull, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Campbell Soup Co. where both Shea and Heim had worked, launched in the Northwest three weeks ago as a partnership between Fred Meyer and the Oregon Food Bank. About 552,900 Oregonians are food insecure, and of those, 194,070 are children.

“We’re honored to be the beneficiary of this innovative partnership,” says Oregon Food Bank CEO Susannah Morgan. “Donations of healthy and nutritious food options are much needed by families around the state who experience hunger.” 

The Soulfull Project’s Multigrain Hot Cereal on-the-go cups, family-size bags and cartons with single-serve packets are available on Amazon and in Fred Meyer locations throughout the Pacific Northwest. All the hot cereals are non-GMO, do not contain artificial ingredients, and are ready in minutes. The cereals are made with nutrient-dense ingredients – such as steel cut oats, rye, quinoa, flax and chia. The 4 Grain Blend, which is donated, was developed with The Food Bank of South Jersey to ensure it meets the needs of food bank clients.

The cups are available in four flavors: Cinnamon Spice, Blueberry Almond, Brown Sugar Pecan and Tart Cherry. The multiserve, resealable bags are available in 4 Grain Blend and Hearty Grains & Seeds varieties. The multiserve cartons of individual packets come in Irish Oatmeal, Cinnamon Spice and Hearty Grains & Seeds, all of which are gluten-free.

"We are proud to launch this healthy, solution-oriented product at Fred Meyer," says Jeffery Temple, Fred Meyer director of corporate affairs. “We are excited to give our customers choices that allow them to make a difference."

She is, of course, thrilled with Soulfull’s first-year accomplishments. But she aims to do more as the company evolves and possibly inspires more people to figure out how they might make time to help others,

“We continue to ask ourselves what would our communities look like if every one of us volunteered an extra hour a year or helped a local food bank with your everyday purchases,” she muses. “We are focused on building this business and mission so that we can one day answer that question.”

February 22, 2018 - 12:02pm