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This weekend is World Hunger Day, a day founded by The Hunger Project to raise awareness around the growing global food crisis. Across the globe, nearly 2.4 billion people don’t have access to adequate amounts of food. The hunger crisis has only gotten worse in the last couple of years with events affecting the global supply chain; first COVID-19, and more recently the war in Ukraine. But people around the world are taking action, and today we want to celebrate, specifically, the youth that are stepping up.

The theme of this years #WorldHungerDay is Youth Ending Hunger. Nearly one quarter of the world population is between the ages of 10-24; these youth are not only the ones who will be most impacted by the growing food crisis, they are also the ones with the greatest opportunity to make an impact. This generation is coming of age at a time when they have the whole world at their fingertips. Small local communities – while still very relevant – are not the only communities we are a part of anymore. With the ubiquity of the internet and social media we are increasingly part of a global community: able to see the good and the bad that takes place around the world, and armed with the resources and knowledge to facilitate meaningful change. This is the world our youth know.

So where does Lasagna Love fit into this year’s theme? Youth participation has been a core part of Lasagna Love from day one, when I posted pictures of me and my then three-year-old making lasagnas. Now, over two years later, we have volunteers around the globe of all ages. Within our volunteer community we have countless “junior” lasagna chefs who help with cooking and delivering meals. In San Diego, Stella was five when she started helping her mom (who has now made over 2000 lasagnas). In Iowa, then seven-year-old Coraline helped her mom cook and deliver more than 30 lasagnas in just two weeks to help address COVID-related food insecurity. Lasagna chef Nancy Brewster cooks with her 5 and 11-year-old grandchildren. In Florida, an eight-year old girl saw Lasagna Love advertised and convinced her mom they needed to get involved. And just a couple of weeks ago we welcomed Samantha into the Lasagna Love community for her work feeding Ukrainian refugees in Bologna Italy – her volunteer team is composed almost entirely of college students. From what I’ve seen, there are probably just as many youths involved in Lasagna Love as we have “official” adult volunteers. Here’s a story from one member of our community:

“For me personally, I love teaching my daughter the importance of giving back and explaining to her the impact that each lasagna we make has. My daughter is 3, and she helps me make and deliver every single lasagna. She asks every time, “who are we making a ‘sagna for?” And every time I’ll tell her the story. Whether it’s another mama who is having a rough week, or a family who might not have enough food to eat. She’s young but she understands, and is always overly excited to be able to help me deliver ‘sagnas to people in need. Whatever that need is.”

The Hunger Project’s focus this World Hunger Day is on amplifying youth voices on critical issues that lead to hunger: primarily climate change and conflict. We at Lasagna Love sit at the other end of the spectrum: taking action to provide food and kindness until such time as it is no longer needed. While we know we won’t solve world hunger with a single lasagna, each and every meal delivered means a few less hungry bellies. If we want to see a change in this world, we need to be the change. And we share a foundational belief with the Hunger Project that our youth have the greatest opportunity to be the change.

But first, they have to know there’s a problem.

Our call to action is this: show your children the issues that the people around the world are facing, and show them they can make a difference. If you’re a lasagna chef, share with them the stories of your recipients. Let them help you cook. Take them with you on a delivery. Every youth that hears the story of a family in need is a future adult with eyes open to the struggles of their neighbors. Every youth that makes a meal is a future adult learning to be part of the solution, not just aware of the problem. And every single youth who shares their lasagna-making story with friends is inspiring and empowering the next generation of community-minded leaders. This World Hunger Day we celebrate our junior lasagna chefs; their kindness, their empathy, their strong voices, and their power to be the change.