Dr. Seuss wrote, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” Young people are capable of instigating great change and of displaying great regard for their fellow human beings. In this post we look at three non-profit organizations which were founded by youth and tackle the issues of hunger and homelessness: Love in the Mirror, I Heart Hungry Kids, and The Ladybug Foundation. A September 2016 Economic Research Report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service shared that “[a]n estimated 12.7 percent of American households were food insecure at least some time during the year in 2015.”
Love in the Mirror
Jonas Corona was inspired to start this nonprofit when he was six years old and volunteered with his mother at a homeless shelter. The Love in the Mirror site shares the full letter that he wrote at the time about his feelings; here are a few excerpts:
“…I went with my mom to feed the homeless… One time there were homeless kids and they were very hungry… I want to help kids because they don’t have food, clothes, toys, and some don’t go to school…every kid should look in the mirror and love themselves.”
Jonas was kind enough to share some additional thoughts and information with us at Not Impossible Now about his work:
“My favorite part about working with young people who are homeless is to see the smile on their face after I have given them an item. I think that the young people that are homeless feel grateful and happy that someone cares about them and wants to help them.”
One of Love in the Mirror’s projects that addresses hunger is called Peanut Butter Jelly Time. Community members from organizations, schools, businesses, and churches have come together to make over 25,000 PBJ sandwiches since December 2012. From Jonas:
“People can support peanut butter jelly time by either donating money to Love in the Mirror to purchase jars of peanut butter and jelly, or they can also collect these items and set a date and time to have an event and we would be more than happy to attend.”
Jonas Corona is also happy to Skype with anyone interested in collaborating who isn’t local to Long Beach, CA. I asked him about upcoming projects:
“The first is our 8th Annual Sock Drive and our goal is to collect over 10,000 pairs of socks. Our 2nd project is our 4th annual toy drive and toy giveaway. The toy drive is where we collect new toys for a month and then the toy giveaway is where we hand out toys to the homeless and disadvantaged families that can’t afford presents. This also includes a family sponsorship program, where the public can pick a family and they purchase off of a wish list we provide. These families are very low income and usually homeless or living in their vehicle or with a relative or friend. Besides toys, many want school supplies, clothing, and food/toiletries.”
Love in the Mirror’s other initiatives include a Children’s Library, G.I.V.E. Youth Empowerment Workshop, and an Annual Personal Hygiene Collection Drive. Also a quick shout-out to Jonas’ brother, Maximus Corona, who has founded his own non-profit called Ocean Maximus which hosts beach clean-ups.
I Heart Hungry Kids
I Heart Hungry Kids is a non-profit based in Charleston, SC that addresses youth and family hunger. It was started in 2013 by Jackson Silverman, who was 11, and his younger brothers Gabriel and Riley. Their website shares an inspirational letter from Jackson--here is an excerpt:
“My brothers and I are lucky. When we get hungry, we know that we will get fed. But not every kid is so lucky. A kid doesn’t have a lot of choice about hunger. A kid can’t make their own money or buy their own food or cook their own dinner.”
Jackson knows that in “Charleston County alone, over 16,000 kids go hungry every weekend.” Since 2013, their organization has grown to the point where they are packing 1,500 bags of food monthly with 150 kid volunteers. They have partnered up with the local Lowcountry Food Bank and Sodexo and have packed over 21,000 bags of food. Their “Packing Parties” are kid-friendly with food and music and participants are encouraged to create cards with drawings and letters with positive messages for the bags. The Post and Courier shares that in 2016 they packed food for the Backpack Buddies program, which “works with select area schools to send food home with children from food-insecure homes on the weekends.”
A few of the ways you can help I Heart Hungry Kids are to participate in a Packing Party, host a change drive (they’ll help with jars, stickers, presentations, etc.), make financial donations, or write additional cards.
The Ladybug Foundation
The Ladybug Foundation is a Canadian non-profit that works to increase awareness of homelessness and hunger and to raise funds for charitable organizations who help the homeless. Founder Hannah Taylor cites an experience of seeing a man digging in a dumpster for food when she was five as the inspiration for starting the organization. Their website shares that she founded The Ladybug Foundation at age eight. Now, at 18, she continues to work to raise awareness and funds and has spoken to many groups in support of the homeless, including schools around the world, CEO’s, entertainment personalities, and even Prime Ministers. The Ladybug Foundation is volunteer-run and has “raised directly or indirectly more than $3,000,000.00 to assist homelessness projects in Canada.” A list of the charitable organizations they raise funds for is available online.
Hannah also wrote a children’s story called “Ruby’s Hope” and The Ladybug Foundation has a K-12 multi-media Education Program, both of which are meant to inspire and empower young people to become change-makers. Hannah offers several ideas on how children can join, including through making a Ladybug Jar to gather change, making Ladybug Cookies, or trying out one of the many other fundraising efforts that their young supporters have carried out, including art sales, fun races, or school dances.
Here’s another inspired youth and hunger story that popped up in the news recently:
Cayden Taipalus, a third grader in Michigan, found it unacceptable that a friend who didn’t have lunch money was given a cheese sandwich instead of a hot lunch. According to Shareably, he and his mom set up a fundraising site called, “Pay It Forward: No Kids Goes Hungry,” and with community support, they have raised over $7,000.00 so far, enough for over 300 lunches.
Respect and thanks must also be given to the parents, teachers, and other adult partners who support these ambitious kids. Feeding America.org also offers a Food Insecurity Map for those interesting in exploring food insecurity and food banks in their local U.S. communities.