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.
Big dreams like a hunger-free America may seem far-fetched and unrealistic to some, but to Generation Z, this goal is realistic and inspires them to take action in their communities. Generation Z, roughly defined as those born since the mid-90s, is considered to be America’s greatest giving generation.1
A lot has been said about Gen Z. Many call them superficial for zealously following certain fashion and social trends—like obsessing over Kylie Jenner’s next lip-gloss shade, or rallying up a group of Pokémon Hunters to catch Pikachu—but from what I’ve observed, this generation holds a commitment to community close to their hearts.
With more than a quarter of the U.S. population belonging to Gen Z 2, businesses both for-profit and not-for-profits need to tune in with this generation’s set of characteristics and expectations to stay relevant. Due to the social climate that Gen Z was born into, (post-9/11, economic recession, and changing norms), the generation is characterized to be realistic, resourceful, and of course, hyper-connected.3
Most importantly, Gen Z wants to make a difference in the world. Sixty percent want their jobs to impact the world 4, and 26% of 16-19 year olds volunteer regularly according to a 2015 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This drive to ‘do good’ is leveraged through their digital connectedness. Utilizing mobile-media like Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat allows for earlier and faster communication to rally troops to support an event, cause, or purpose. This can be seen through hashtag campaigns like #BlackLivesMatter, Instagram contests like the Ice Bucket Challenge supporting the ALS Association, and Snapchat activists like Peta.
Considered America’s greatest giving generation, noted in a Huffington Post article; working for the public good is at the core of the Gen Z ethos. 5 Not only are youth getting involved in their communities through organizations like Share Our Strength and Youth Service America, which have mastered youth-talk through social media channels, but they also look up to service idols like Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai.
If voicing social injustices to a global audience like Gen Z idol Malala isn’t your thing, working closer to home in your community to make it a better place is just as admirable. Whether large-scale or in a community, Gen Z’s impact is significant and present. This generation not only has an inclination to give back, but goes a step further and acts upon these desires.
Cultivating these youth’s tremendous impact in the community cannot go without credit, and that’s why Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation created an opportunity to recognize and reward young, selfless servers in their efforts to combat hunger. Through the Stephen J. Brady Stop Hunger Scholarships, recipients receive $5,000 for their education as well as a matching grant for the hunger-related charity of their choice. Since its creation in 2007, we have recognized 220 national and regional honorees all under the age of 25. The annual application period opens October 5.
This year’s Stop Hunger scholars, A.K.A. the Hunger Squad, are utilizing social media to win an additional $5,000 to benefit their charity. Watch their videos, share them, and vote for the hunger fighter that YOU think is making the biggest impact in his/her community at http://sodexoinsights.com/hunger-squad-competition/.
Thanks to awesome youth, like Gen Z and the Hunger Squad, who make service a priority, we can imagine an America without hunger.
Shondra Jenkins is the Executive Director of 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.