Community Engagement
Hidden Hunger and What Young Leaders are Doing to Help
Shondra Jenkins
Shondra Jenkins
Executive Director,
Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation

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.


Every summer Sodexo teams up with No Kid Hungry (NKH) to support a group of passionate young people who work to fight childhood hunger in their communities through NKH’s Youth Ambassador Program. This year’s Ambassadors are bringing their unique brand of enthusiasm, expertise, passion and fun to kids all summer long and connecting them to the food they need. From Maine to Texas, 23 inspiring youth took on the immense challenge of ending hunger this summer and giving us all hope for a brighter, less-hungry tomorrow.

Bringing a fresh perspective to hunger is Youth Ambassador Bridget Casey. Originally from Franklin, Tennessee, Bridget is an intern with the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance and a fulltime student at Harding University in Arkansas.

Although helping the homeless and hungry is a newfound passion for Bridget, she has always been interested in nutrition and its impact on quality of life. When Bridget moved from her hometown to her college town, she saw firsthand the prevalence of hunger and poor nutrition in her new community. Bridget was unaware that hunger was such a widespread epidemic in America until “one time [when] she was shopping at Dollar General and witnessed many families purchasing their groceries. They were putting boxes of cereal and other packaged goods into their carts.” This led her to question “how can a family make a nutritious, wholesome meal if they are limited to buying their groceries at a dollar store?”

Often, hunger is hidden—meaning that many of the faces of hunger are obese or overweight due to the consequences of both social and economic disadvantage.  Seems like a paradox, doesn’t it? Hunger and obesity can coexist, but it may not be statistically significant.1  Luckily, these individuals have options. No Kid Hungry has created a program that teaches families money-saving tips and nutrition education. The program, Cooking Matters at the Store, gives participants first-hand shopping and cooking experience that then can be replicated to enable self-sufficiency.

This summer Bridget had the opportunity to take part in her local Cooking Matters at the Store program in which about 5,000 participants across Arkansas attend. The course teaches individuals how to compare unit prices in order to stretch their grocery dollars and also teaches them how to plan meals using shopping lists to cut down on grocery costs and wasted food. After the course, about 60% of participants are eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole-grains, 50% say their cooking skills have improved, and more than 30% say they read nutrition labels more frequently.

The impact of her experience gained through No Kid Hungry’s Cooking Matters at the Store class and Youth Ambassador Program has helped Bridget realize how easy it is to take the blessings of life for granted. “So many people don’t know how to cook and buy groceries or they don’t have the resources to do so—they may not have knives to cut up fresh vegetables or electricity to bake some chicken. So many people struggle with hunger and I was oblivious to the problem for so many years.” Thanks to Bridget, the other Youth Ambassadors, and young leaders all around America who are stepping up and taking hunger personally; together, we are making a lasting difference.


Are you a college student fighting hunger in your community? If so, apply to be one of NKH’s Youth Ambassadors:


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 believes young people are the key to ending childhood hunger.

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