IRVINE, Calif. (Diya TV) — Two Indian American high school students from Southern California received a stamp of approval to start an official Second Harvest Food Bank club at their school, which already has 15 members.
Kalen and Trishna Patel, who are cousins, started the club at Aliso Niguel High School, where they are both enrolled.
Kalen said his first exposure to America’s homeless population came during a vacation trip to Las Vegas, at the age of 5. Trishna, the older of the two at 17, described her first memories of serving India’s food-insecure residents when visiting the country as a child. She began volunteering in the sixth grade with the Brown Bag Brigade at Chinmaya Mission, a Hindu temple in Tustin, a suburb of Orange County.
Every Saturday, Trishna and other students would gather at a park in Santa Ana, carrying sacks full of sandwiches, fruit and granola bars to pass out to the local homeless population.
“It was really eye-opening that there were people so close to home that needed food,” she said. “I was shocked. In India you expect it, but you didn’t expect it here.”
She’s since spent time of every week in the last four years volunteering at Second Harvest Food Bank. Her and her cousin decided they should do something to get more teens involved. Their proposal for the club was made during a presentation to school officials at their local food bank in Irvine. The duo also shared telling statistics with their peers about how impoverished some of the locals are: A recent study by Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County and Feeding America revealed more than 350,000 people in Orange County need help to feed themselves and their families.
The club was born in October, and now has 15 members. Their first food drive was held on Halloween, where instead of candy, they collected non-perishables. Now, the group holds additional food drives each month.
Since October, the club has gathered more than 3,000 pounds of food, and by summer, will have raised $2,117 — enough to sponsor their own Adopt a Pantry, which will bring 5,000 pounds of fresh produce and other items, allowing the group to feed between 150 and 200 families.