Jackson Silverman, a 7-year-old James Island kid, had two big plans last week. (For the record, he turns 8 today).
First, he used a $500 Sodexo Foundation Youth Grant for youth-led projects that address childhood hunger to gather 150 kids, parents and friends for a packing party at the Lowcountry Food Bank. Together, they provided food for 325 hungry children.
But Jackson also used the packing event to launch a new nonprofit called I Heart Hungry Kids, which he founded with his younger twin brothers, Gabriel and Riley, who are 6. The nonprofit will fight childhood hunger.
“Hunger is a feeling even young kids can understand. And packing a bag of food really resonates as a way to solve this problem,” says Jackson’s mom, Tiffany. “They have a blast doing it, so the kids have a positive initial response to philanthropy.”
Of those on hand for the packing event, about 80 were children ages 18 months to 15 years. They packed bags full of healthy food in an assembly line to provide weekend nutrition for the Lowcountry Food Bank’s BackPack Buddies program, which Jackson first helped with when he was 3.
BackPack Buddies provides weekend food for children who receive free or reduced-cost school meals and are most at risk of going hungry outside of school.
“You and I are lucky,” Jackson said in his welcome speech. “When we get hungry, we know we’ll get fed. But not every kid is so lucky. Tonight, you are letting all these hungry kids know that we ‘heart’ them. That makes me feel great, and I hope it makes you feel great, too.”
Jackson, a Stiles Points Elementary second-grader, also sold I Heart Hungry Kids T-shirts to raise money.
Chefs from the Medical University of South Carolina’s dietetic services showed people at the packing party how to make healthy snacks, including ants on a log and fruit kebabs.
Due to the packing party’s large response, Jackson and his family plan to start a series of I Heart Hungry Kids clubs around the area so that more youths can join in. They are working with the Lowcountry Food Bank to create a method that complements BackPack Buddies. Those who would like to participate can contact him at Jackson@ihearthungrykids.org.
His mom credits the family’s church, Grace Episcopal in Charleston, which has helped with the hunger project and whose priests discussed the project and the importance of helping others during children’s sermons last month.
“As a family, we pray for hungry children every night, have food drives at our annual Christmas party and have been looking for ways to teach our children about service to others,” she says.
Reach Jennifer Hawes at 937-5563, follow her on Twitter at @JenBerry Hawes or subscribe to her at facebook.com/jennifer.b.hawes.