When it came time for Evan to choose the focus of his bar mitzvah project in 2020, the 13-year-old didn’t hesitate: He wanted to help feed others.
“I love food, and I wanted to help put food on the table for everyone in our community,” Evan said. “It’s important for everybody to have a warm meal, and I wanted to provide that to others.”
Evan isn’t the only young person driven to nourish members of his community. At Food Bank of the Rockies, we see numerous individuals under age 18 raising money or collecting food to donate. Some donate their piggy banks, make bracelets, or, like the 8th Grade Culture Council of Platte River Academy, sell T-shirts and donate the proceeds. Others, like Evan, use mitzvah projects or other similar motivators as their driving force, organizing food and fund drives, hosting bake sales, and reaching out to friends, family, and neighbors to support their efforts.
For his mitzvah project, Evan tapped into both in-person and online resources. In late November 2020, he oversaw a three-hour food drive and organized a virtual fundraising drive. To generate attention for both, Evan posted fliers around his neighborhood. He then recruited friends to help him unload cars full of food donations, sent an email out to family members encouraging them to give, posted a video on Facebook, and even created a raffle system through which donors received a ticket for each item donated and were entered to win a $20 Amazon gift card.
Similarly, Russell, age 13, strove to raise as much money as he could for Food Bank of the Rockies for his bar mitzvah project. Together with his mom, he made a website explaining his goal and included the URL on his mitzvah invitations to friends and family. On the day of his bar mitzvah in June 2021, Russell spoke in front of his synagogue and explained why he’d chosen Food Bank of the Rockies as his project.
“I chose Food Bank of the Rockies because of all the hungry people on the planet, which makes me very sad,” Russell explained in his speech. “Food is important in celebrating Jewish holidays and cultural events [and] I want others to be able to eat like I can. I am proud to be supporting Food Bank of the Rockies and would like to thank everyone who has donated to support my mitzvah project.”
Bryn, age 13, took a different approach for her bat mitzvah project. One weekend in April 2021, she and her mom baked 350 hamantaschen pastries filled with s’more toppings, cheese and jam, and strawberries to sell. Packed in boxes of 12, Bryn quickly found buyers for all of the treats, and even ended up baking more to fill additional orders.
“I chose the Food Bank as my mitzvah project because I wanted to help make sure everyone in my community can eat,” Bryn said. “It’s only fair that people have food. Everyone needs to eat.”
In addition to her monetary donation, Bryn and her family spent an afternoon this summer volunteering at Food Bank of the Rockies’ Denver distribution center. “It was cool to see the process and learn how all the food is packed into each box,” said Bryn. “I really enjoyed putting each box together and knowing it would help feed someone.”
Contributions from individuals like Evan, Russell, and Bryn, and from groups like the eighth graders at Platte River Academy prove that while age is often perceived as a barrier to giving back to one’s community, it is not and should not be. In total, the combined efforts of the three mitzvah projects and T-shirt sales was $5,334 — enough to provide 22,378 meals.
In fact, this younger generation is simply continuing the trend put in place by the two generations preceding them: Millennials and Gen Z were the two most generous groups when it came to giving levels in 2020, according to the Zelle Consumer Payment Behavior report. The study found that nearly 3 out of 4 Millennials sent financial aid to family or friends or donated to a nonprofit since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Right behind them was Gen Z, of whom 66% supported those in their lives or donated to their communities via nonprofits.
At Food Bank of the Rockies we often emphasize how every donation, no matter what size, counts just as much as the next. That’s because it’s true: Every single dollar — given by individuals of all ages, corporations of all sizes, families, school groups, and anyone else — help sustain and support our goal of ending hunger. We are thankful to and inspired by everyone who dedicates their time, effort, and money to Food Bank of the Rockies. Together, we can eliminate food insecurity once and for all. Together, we can ensure no one in our community goes hungry. Donate or volunteer today.