WASHINGTON, June 14, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- While hunger continues to affect a growing population in communities across America, a mobilized youth culture may well be the key to the solution. Students from kindergarten to graduate school are actively engaged in service-oriented volunteer work, many of them focused on eliminating hunger. Alexander Epstein, a junior at Temple University, is a perfect example. Tonight he will be recognized at the 13th Annual Sodexo Foundation Dinner in Washington, D.C. as a national 2012 Stephen J. Brady STOP Hunger Scholarship recipient for his extensive community organization work, including the development of sustainable urban farms. As part of that recognition, Epstein will receive a $5,000 scholarship and a $5,000 matching grant presented in his name to the hunger-related charity of his choice, the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization to support Philadelphia Urban Creators.
As a high school freshman Epstein rarely thought about hunger or food injustice, but a 2006 school trip to New Orleans reshaped his perspective. He was shocked to find that a year after Katrina, the devastated Lower 9th Ward still had no grocery stores or a single source of fresh produce for miles. Frustrated by the lack of progress, Epstein launched NewYork2NewOrleans, a youth-led non-profit organization created to bring young New Yorkers to New Orleans in support of the Lower 9th Ward's rebuilding efforts. His work there helped transform four vacant lots into urban farms that now generate 3,000 pounds of organic produce weekly.
"Most people don't even realize the extent of childhood hunger in our country, or that 'food insecure' families may be living right next door," said Robert A. Stern, Chair, Sodexo Foundation. "Only by driving awareness at the local and national levels can we even get to the point of implementing change, and that's exactly what students like Alex are doing."
Alex made more than 25 presentations to high schools and raised in excess of $40,000 in funds in the first two years alone, with more than $80,000 in funds raised to date. In addition, he worked to create or co-found a number of other service organizations including: YouthCoalition4CommunityAction, OurSchooolAtBlairGrocery, and more recently Harlem Harvest. During his freshman year at Temple University Alex co-founded Philadelphia Urban Creators (PUC), a youth-driven organization that works in collaboration with residents and community organizations in North Central Philadelphia to develop neighborhoods from the ground up.
Alex observes, "I have found that food is our world's greatest equalizer and that if we are to eradicate hunger, we must all act at the local level."
One of the PUC projects that he spearheads–Life Do Grow–features a two-acre plot of vacant land that is being converted into a fully accessible community-based model of urban sustainability. Among its many functions, it is an active urban farm producing fresh, organic, locally-grown produce and it also operates by engaging students throughout Philadelphia in interactive workshops where they analyze the relationships between food and identity, energy and economics, the environment and society.
Also named as national Stephen J. Brady STOP Hunger Scholarship recipients for 2012 are: Peyton Medick of Weston, Wis. (8th Grader), Rebecca Fawns of Corvallis, Mont. (High School Senior), Ruthi Solari of Solana Beach, Calif. (Graduate Student) and Camille Posard of Encinitas, Calif. (High School Senior).
In addition to the national scholarship recipients, 20 Stephen J. Brady STOP Hunger Regional Honorees will each receive a $1,000 grant in their name to support the hunger-related charity of their choice. The 2012 regional honorees are:
Essence M. Agee, Gautier, Miss.
Senior at Gautier High School
Amber Banks, Seattle, Wash.
Graduate Student at University of Washington-Seattle Campus
Sibo Cai, San Diego, Calif.
Senior at La Jolla Country Day School
Nicholas Cobb, Allen, Texas
Sophomore at Allen High School
Zach Harmon, New Berlin, Wis.
Seventh Grader at New Berlin West Middle School
Olivia Hodge, Blacksburg, Va.
Eighth Grader at Blacksburg Middle School
Hajja Kamara, Tampa, Fla.
Junior at University of South Florida
Chad Kamen, Prospect, Ky.
Eighth Grader at Kentucky Country Day
Will Lourcey, Fort Worth, Texas
Third Grader at Tanglewood Elementary School
Kathryn Marsh-Soloway, Woodbridge, Conn.
Junior at Washington and Lee University
Ravi Patel, Nashville, Tenn.
Graduate Student at Vanderbilt University
Gloria Patterson, Saint Ann, Mo.
Junior at Kaplan University
Jeffrey C. Peterson, Minooka, Ill.
Graduate Student at Olivet Nazarene University
Jackie Price, Derwood, Md.
Senior at Colonel Zadok Magruder High School
Andrew Reuss, Madison, Ind.
Freshman at Hillsdale College
Roseana Rodriguez, Hialeah, Fla.
Senior at Westland Hialeah Senior High School
Ben Simon, Takoma Park, Md.
Senior at University of Maryland-College Park
Jacklyn Marie Sullivan, Wantagh, N.Y.
Senior at General Douglas MacArthur High School
Brian M. Wong, Alameda, Calif.
Senior at Alameda High School
Michael Zimmerman, New York, N.Y.
Graduate Student at Fordham University
The Stephen J. Brady STOP Hunger Scholarship is named for Sodexo Foundation's founder and former president, who was an unstoppable champion in the fight to end hunger. Thanks to Steve's efforts, which made these scholarships possible, an emerging generation of leaders now joins the fight against hunger. To date, Sodexo Foundation has recognized 90 STOP Hunger Regional Honorees with grants totaling $90,000 for their hunger-relief charities. In addition, it has awarded 30 students with $260,000 in scholarships and matching grants for the hunger-relief charities of their choice.
ABOUT SODEXO'S FIGHT AGAINST HUNGER
Sodexo Inc. and Sodexo Foundation work to help end hunger in the United States. Sodexo Foundation is an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit with the mission to end childhood hunger. The foundation works to ensure that every child in the United States, especially those most at-risk, grows up with dependable access to enough nutritious food to enable them to lead a healthy, productive life. Sodexo Foundation cultivates and maintains strategic partnerships with regional and national hunger relief entities and youth mobilization organizations—all part of Sodexo's STOP Hunger Initiative, its global program to end hunger and malnutrition in the communities where it operates. Sodexo is headquartered in Gaithersburg, Md. and funds all administrative costs for Sodexo Foundation, which since 1999 has made more than $17 million in grants to end childhood hunger. Visit www.SodexoFoundation.org for more information.
Sodexo's STOP Hunger Programs
Impact to Date (as of June 2012)
Stephen J. Brady STOP Hunger Scholarship
Heroes of Everyday Life®
Feeding Our Future®
Backpack Food Program
Distributed more than $17 million in grants
Gave $353,000 in scholarships & matching grants
Awarded $478,000 to employees' hunger charities
Funded more than 2.9 million summer meals
Mobilized 125,000 employees to fight hunger
Funded 70 programs; providing 2 million meals
SOURCE Sodexo, Inc.