It was 2007, and the education and volunteer teams were deep into planning our first Youth Summit on Hunger and Poverty. A few months earlier, we had pitched the idea to our founder, and then executive director, Bill Bolling. I’m not sure he was completely convinced of its merit, but he could tell this was something we were excited about, and he let us take the leap, believing in creative spirit and the power of youth.
That first year, 12 brave teens joined us as we embarked on this adventure. Over the span of 10 years, we’ve engaged 320 students! In our eyes, the Youth Summit was a way to further the Food Bank’s mission to fight hunger by engaging, educating and empowering our community. We wanted to give high school students an understanding of hunger and poverty issues that many in our community face. But we also wanted them to leave the experience with tools to raise awareness and take action to address these issues. As Anish, a student from our 2010 Youth Summit, so eloquently expresses: “My eyes opened to the social stratification all around us, and I realized one needs to better understand a community to advocate for its needs.”
It was our hope that students would take these experiences with them, that it would change hearts and minds, dispel myths and stereotypes, and inspire action. And they do. Anish writes: “Little did I know, however, that the lessons I learned here would shape the way in which I viewed service in my future service endeavors.”
As it happens, the Youth Summit students also inspire us. Each year our faith in human beings and hope for the future is restored by their energy, response and commitment. The list of their action steps is long and powerful – hunger banquets with invited elected officials, food and fund drives, thousands of volunteer hours, hunger awareness campaigns and more. Anish writes: “I will never forget the lessons about compassion and dedication to service that I learned through the Atlanta Community Food Bank and hope to carry them with me always.”
I hope Anish and all past and future Youth Summit students know that we never forget them.
If you, or a student you know, might be interested in this summer’s Youth Summit on Hunger and Poverty, please visit: http://www.acfb.org/youth-summit. Application deadline is APRIL 15th!