Students Fighting Hunger and Food Waste

When Second Helpings Atlanta (SHA) Volunteers head out to rescue food, many are accompanied by their children. It’s a great way to introduce kids to the joy of giving back, and it gives busy families quality time together.

Hearing from parents how much kids love being part of the process gave SHA Executive Director Joe Labriola an idea. Why not reach out directly to schools to harness more of this terrific kid power?

Food for Thought does just that. The new SHA initiative has three objectives:

  1. Food for Thought does just that. The new SHA initiative has three objectives:
    Educate students about hunger, food waste and its environmental impact.
  2. Encourage students, parents, teachers and administrators to get involved in providing nutritious food to those in need.
  3. Engage schools by providing meaningful volunteer opportunities.

Students and parents are often shocked to learn that hunger is a problem of epidemic proportions right here in Atlanta. The program seeks to increase family awareness of hunger issues by engaging students.

To kick off Food for Thought, SHA reached out to Pace Academy, which was already a Food Donor. “Pace invited us to present at assemblies to several hundred second and third graders,” says Joe. “When it was time for questions, about 50 hands went up—the kids were really excited and asked great questions.”

Food for Thought is more of an umbrella for school involvement than a one-size-fits-all program. It provides the opportunity to develop programs tailored to the specific needs of each school. Schools are coming up with unique ways to get involved.

For example, at Atlanta Jewish Academy, administrators noticed students were throwing out unopened items from their home lunches, like juice boxes and packages of crackers. Working with SHA, the school purchased and labeled bins where unopened non-perishables are are placed and collected for distribution.

Students make sandwiches for Atlanta's hungry.

At Westminster Academy and Atlanta Academy, students made sandwiches and bag lunches and delivered them to Second Helpings Atlanta Partner Agencies. Atlanta Girls’ School and other schools have adopted routes. Administrators, teacher, parents, and students share responsibility for rescuing and delivering food at these locations.

Hunger 101
Education will be a key part of the Food for Thought program. Second Helpings Atlanta is developing teaching modules for K-12 students. These are created by volunteer educational specialists and provided to schools at no charge. Teachers encourage their students to learn about hunger and its environmental impact, but many lack the time to develop lesson plans around the topic. SHA’s ready-to-teach modules can be easily integrated into an existing curriculum.

Teaching materials include in-class lessons and homework, as well as links to relevant videos and other content. Students are introduced to grade level-appropriate lessons about hunger, expiration dates, the food supply chain and the environmental and economic impacts of food waste.

Kids love the idea that they can make a difference and bring others along with them. Following a presentation to a school group last spring, an enterprising third grader approached Joe and said, “Mr. Joe, could I have your business card? My mom works at a big company and I think they’d like to help!”

Current Food for Thought participating schools include:

  • Atlanta Academy
  • Atlanta Girls’ School
  • Atlanta Jewish Academy
  • Pace Academy
  • The Children’s School
  • The Paideia School
  • The Westminster Schools

Plans call for getting public schools involved, as well. Please help us expand the number of schools participating in Food for Thought by introducing us to appropriate school leaders. Contact Joe Labriola at for more information.