Schools Community Engagement
Making a Positive Impact: Inspiring Young People to Get Involved in Their Community
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.

“This world demands the qualities of youth: not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease.” – Robert Kennedy

Growing up, I lived in a middle-class neighborhood with a financially stable family. My childhood memories consist mainly of playing hide-and-go-seek with neighborhood friends and getting called in at 6PM for dinner.  I’d gather around the table with my family, where we would indulge in the delicious feast my father had prepared.

I didn’t know poverty and I didn’t know hunger. However, 16 million other children do.

If I had known this as a child, my afternoons playing hide-and-go-seek would likely have turned into afternoons volunteering at my local soup kitchen or organizing canned food drives. There are young, ambitious and driven people all across the country who are seeking purpose and want to contribute, they just don’t know where or how to apply their talents.

Luckily, a new resource is available that offers tools and resources to engage youth in meaningful community involvement. Recently the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation partnered with Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign to create the Youth Engagement Toolkit. This unique and valuable resource offers a blueprint to engaging youth in the fight against hunger as well as immediate steps that can be taken and input from young people on what influenced them to get involved in the fight against hunger.

Young people are natural innovators. They don’t see the world in the same light as adults do. Fearless, inspired and joyful, young people have the creative solution we are seeking in the fight to end childhood hunger. It is our job to nurture their passion and guide them in becoming a future leader and community contributor.

Having faith in our youth, and letting them lead the way can have some truly amazing results. Take Jackson Silverman for example. Jackson is the founder of I Heart Hungry Kids, an organization that harnesses “Kid Power” by hosting meal-packing parties where kids help other kids in need. In 2013, Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation provided Jackson with a Global Youth Service Day grant to pack 150 bags of food. What started with one grant has grown into a non-profit with 1,477 volunteers who have provided 86,000 meals for local children and raised over $35,000. Jackson has spoken to more than 2,000 kids about child hunger.

One boy’s passion resulted in nearly 1,500 others getting involved in the fight against childhood hunger. If we can find five other children with the same drive as Jackson, we could have 7,500 more people involved in the fight against hunger. Raising awareness among our youth creates an exponential increase in volunteers, resources and support. While it’s important everyone take part in the fight, we must make sure to engage and nurture the enthusiasm and commitment of young people – they are the key to ending childhood hunger.


Sodexo is committed to improving performance and enhancing quality of life for the individuals, organizations and communities we serve. The Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation strives to empower youth dedicated to combating hunger and positively impacting their communities. Learn more about how you can utilize the Youth Engagement Toolkit by reading the Micro Report: Six Steps to Engage Millennials in Social Change report on Sodexo Insights.

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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