Igniting Youth Imagination in the Fight Against Hunger

Posted By Shondra Jenkins | In Community Engagement | August 19, 2016

Actively engaging young people in their community can result in positive and meaningful social change. Learn more about how to engage young people by reading Six Steps to Engage Millennials in Social Change and utilizing the complimentary Youth Engagement Toolkit.

“The greatest feeling in the world is realizing that you have what it takes to be a social catalyst

for positive change, which can be achieved through serving others.” –Angelina, 2016 Youth Grantee, age 16.

One in five kids in America is at risk of hunger. At Sodexo, we believe that hunger is a serious problem that can have lasting harmful effects on our communities and youth can help solve this issue. That’s why we teamed up with Youth Service America (YSA) to offer service grants to leverage the innovative minds of young leaders to turn their ideas into action, empowering them to make a lasting impact in their communities to fight child hunger!

This spring, YSA awarded 125 Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation Youth Grants to students ages 5-25 across the country to ignite their imagination in addressing child hunger and serving their communities. These leaders turned their ideas into reality on Global Youth Service Day alongside peers, adults, and Sodexo volunteers. The youth leaders organized a variety of projects ranging from backpack stuffing events, to building and maintaining community gardens, to food distribution, and even nutrition education classes! These youth are proof that age isn’t a factor when it comes to making a difference.

More importantly, kids want to make a difference—many times they just don’t have the means to get started. Through our partnership with YSA and the Youth Grants, we aim to provide resources and opportunities to support the great ideas youth have and to further nurture their leadership. The ideas and passion that youth can offer will lead us into the future with less hungry kids and stronger communities.

Check out a few of this year’s youth-led projects:

Sophia, 15, from Scandia, MN, decided to do something about hunger in her community by teaching 36 kids in K-9th grade how to make healthy and affordable snacks. Her hands-on cooking lessons were simple and creative, and did not require a stove or oven, allowing kids to make their own snacks without adult supervision. Sophia is continuing her good work with a Summer Sustainability Grant by growing her community garden and educating families how to grow their own food in small spaces and on a budget.

Jaclyn, 22, from New Castle, PA, took action by having a Penny War in her elementary school and donating all the proceeds to support a local summer meals program. With help from her peers, the project raised over $2,770. This summer, Jaclyn is incorporating local produce into the meals and conducting food-related learning activities.

Colin, 12, from Boca Raton, FL, engaged over 100 youth and 55 adults and distributed 8,822 meals, 374 hygiene items, 250 books, $1,100 worth of toys and clothes, and art supplies to 220 needy families. Colin is also the Chair and Founder of the Boca Raton/Palm Beach Chapter of the Junior Advisory Board for Joshua’s Heart Foundation, a local kid-founded non-profit with the vision to “stomp out hunger in poor and underprivileged communities.”

Maria, 17, from Omaha, NE, created a hydroponic lab to provide those in need with a year-round fresh source of produce and protein. She hopes this sustainable resource will lead to healthy, more nutrient-packed meals for the homeless in her community. Maria is using her Summer Sustainability Grant for more grow lights for the plants, to produce more at a time.

Casharae, 15, from Rockwood, MI, lives in a low-income community, where many families struggle to afford healthy food. To aid her neighbors, she expanded the community garden by doubling its size, increasing the quantity of fresh produce available to residents in the housing project.

Through these projects, Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation Youth Grantees provided 151,407 meals, raised $100,358, and positively influenced the lives of 140,000 people!

This summer, we are providing additional funding to support 25 projects to continue the great work these youth have already started. Youth Grantees Sophia, Jaclyn, and Maria are just a few of the 25 imaginative youth who are growing their efforts to alleviate hunger in their communities this summer.

Growing the next generation of leaders is essential to ending hunger in America, and with dedicated youth like our grant awardees, we can look forward to seeing a better tomorrow.

Feeling moved to give back? Here are a few places youth can go to apply for grants.

Shondra Jenkins is the Executive Director of the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation and a passionate advocate in the fight to end childhood hunger in America. Ms. Jenkins believes that eliminating childhood hunger is possible through the active engagement of young people. She is working with national non-profit organizations to empower youth to have a voice and take action in their local community. With fresh eyes, energy and a different perspective on many social issues, Ms. Jenkins believe young people are the key to ending childhood hunger.

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Source: Sodexo Insights

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