Laguna Beach teenagers’ efforts are aimed at Crushing Hunger at local food pantry
LAGUNA BEACH — When Jackson Jenkins and his pals opened the primary packing containers stuffed with rice, beans, pasta, jars of pasta sauce, tuna and peanut butter and jelly, that they had tangible proof that their plan to assist feed hungry households in South Orange County was actual.
They unpacked the nonperishable food gadgets that had arrived by way of Amazon Prime and sorted every merchandise, weighed them after which re-boxed the like gadgets collectively.
“When we saw all the items, it made me and my crew realize what we had done,” Jackson, 15, a sophomore at Laguna Beach High School, stated about that day in his storage on Sunday, Nov. 5. “It felt amazing.”
Along with fellow sophomore Ella Pachl, 15, Jackson final month launched Crushing Hunger. The two teenagers acknowledged that by way of the usage of know-how they might not solely discover folks to donate food to however broaden their attain to a borderless group of donors.
They arrange an internet site the place food contributors can choose chosen gadgets from the Laguna Food Pantry’s Wish List posted on Amazon. The food is packaged after which delivered to the Jenkins’ South Laguna dwelling. Donations have are available in from folks nationwide, Jackson stated.
Those food donations — totaling 263 kilos — have been a part of the Super Six on the Laguna Food Pantry’s record. Each week, the pantry on Laguna Canyon Road subsequent to town’s in a single day homeless shelter offers greater than three,500 kilos of food to 400 households in South Orange County.
“It sucks being hungry,” stated Jackson. “Nobody pays attention to it until you learn about what’s really happening with people.”
Feeding the needy
Jackson, who surfs for Laguna Beach High School, and Ella, a nationally ranked tennis participant who additionally competes for the highschool, got here up with their thought after being impressed by the story of a 7-year-old Kaden Newton, a Texas boy who began a nonprofit known as Mac and Cheese and Pancakes.
After visiting a local food pantry, Kaden realized the pantry didn’t have quite a lot of kid-friendly meals. So for his birthday, he created an Amazon Wish List for simply these two gadgets. On his birthday, a room in his dwelling was stacked excessive with Mac and Cheese and pancake combine.
“It made us think if he was able to help people, we could just as easily help out our community,” Ella stated about listening to Kaden’s story.
So Ella and Jackson, pals since they have been 2, brainstormed a plan. They obtained their youthful siblings, Benji Jenkins, 12, and Sophia Pachl, 12, to assist out.
The mission began as a means for the teenagers to satisfy group service hours at Laguna High. Months later, it has become teamwork for a ardour.
First they got here up with the identify — Crushing Hunger.
“We wanted it to be blunt and to the point,” Ella stated.
Then they considered methods to make their attain extra world and labored on designing their web site.
“We wanted it to be super straightforward,” Jackson stated. “Lots of websites you can get lost in.”
They designed their brand — a fist that appears prefer it’s hanging by way of the phrase “hunger” — and labored on creating the Wish List. They additionally developed concepts for social media.
Food pantry go to makes mission actual
In August, they made their first go to to the Laguna Food Pantry. That expertise was eye-opening.
They needed to see what it was like and to verify the individuals who went there truly wanted their assist. And they needed to see how the group labored.
“We saw families with kids and we saw people we recognized,” Ella stated. “You go to school with them and you don’t know they’re struggling.”
“It’s nothing they should have been ashamed about,” she added. “People struggle and they get back on their feet eventually.”
On the automotive experience dwelling, recalled Cynthia Jenkins, Jackson’s mom, the 4 teenagers have been silent. She might inform that seeing folks from Laguna they knew had made a distinct type of influence. Shortly after that the teenagers determined to broaden their attain.
Until then, their efforts and details about their web site was unfold by phrase of mouth. Mostly they relied on pals and households.
After the go to to the pantry, they began taking note of children at colleges who used vouchers for food.
At Laguna Beach Unified School District’s 4 colleges, 283 college students qualify without spending a dime or decreased lunches, in accordance with district officers. There are 113 at Laguna Beach High, 79 at Thurston Middle School, 39 at Top of the World Elementary and 52 at El Morro Elementary.
“We’ve grown up to believe that Laguna is in a perfect bubble and everything is perfect,” Jackson stated. “But now we know no city is perfect. We were extremely surprised to see how many people actually needed help here.”
Countywide, specialists estimate that one in six youngsters and one in 10 adults don’t have sufficient food to have the ability to reside productive lives.
Benji stated he already knew of pals at Thurston Middle School who depend on subsidies for lunch. Most of the food comes from a set menu, and pals typically ask him to commerce food as a result of they need one thing totally different.
“I really feel bad, I feel guilty,” he stated. “I’ll get something extra when I’m really hungry and some kids will ask me to trade. I always say ‘yes’ when I can.”
He stated he believes most individuals don’t perceive starvation.
“Some people will have a nice house and then problems happen and they need to rely on help,” he stated. “I used to think it wasn’t that bad but it really is that bad.”
In September, when Laguna Beach High had a membership occasion day, Jackson and Ella determined it was an ideal time to recruit some children to assist out. They arrange a sales space inviting others to affix. Since then, they’ve added eight others along with their siblings.
Taking cost in November
That first Crushing Hunger supply to the pantry coincided with November’s National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Month. Now the 2 teenagers are centered on ramping up efforts.
With the upcoming Thanksgiving vacation and the winter break, they are working further onerous to stockpile items. They’ve already secured pledges from Dole Foods for eight circumstances of canned fruit.
Barilla has given them coupons to purchase pasta and pasta sauces. To make one of the best use of those coupons, Jackson and Ella did some analysis and located that Walmart presents one of the best costs.
They spoke with the shop supervisor, who purchased into their trigger and plans to verify to have the stock in inventory. On Tuesday, Nov. 14, they plan to purchase as a lot pasta and sauce as they will.
They’ve additionally stepped up their plans to get their message out. Club members will do company outreach, social media and have plans for a local radio spot.
Anne Belyea, government director at the Laguna Food Pantry, was there Monday when the primary donation from Crushing Hunger arrived.
“It will make such a difference to so many lives,” Belyea stated. “It’s a misnomer that Orange County is such a wealthy community and that Laguna Beach is in a bubble. Shoppers at the food pantry come from our school district. It’s heartwarming that these young kids are so excited about making a difference.”
Next up for Jenkins and Pachl: plans to ascertain Crushing Hunger golf equipment in different excessive colleges in Orange and Los Angeles counties.
When Jackson and Ella graduate in two years, their siblings Benji and Sophia plan to proceed the membership at Laguna Beach High.
Cynthia Jenkins and Anne Pachl say they are thrilled their youngsters care a lot about others, however additionally they commend their teamwork.
“I’m proud of the unifying dynamic this club has perpetuated,” Cynthia Jenkins stated. “They signed up over mutual curiosity and have discovered camaraderie and a group dynamic that has nothing to do with sports activities, cliques or neighborhoods.
“You don’t see that with a lot with teens who typically already have established friendships.”
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