2nd Bi-Annual Coming Together Hunger Conference

Braeden and Christy, founder and co-founder of 3B

For the second year, Brae’s Brown Bags was able to work with the Food Bank of Delaware to co-host a hunger conference that included youth participants. Words really cannot begin to describe how impactful the event is for Braeden and myself. While planning the event takes a lot of time for us, since I work full-time at UD and Brae is a full-time 7th grade student, haha, all of the time and energy and creativity that is poured into this conference is completely worth it! This year we had so many amazing volunteers helping us and I have to say I am humbled that they generously donated a full day to assisting us with the conference, I hope they also found it impactful.

The 3B created “MONEY PIT”

I would like to thank my parents and my in-laws for their help with the conference. Our friend Michele Fidance and Mallory Stratton from the Jefferson Awards Foundation helped out at the legislative letter writing table. My friends Laura Nash and Katie Moore-Hughes for manning the money pit, which is an activity designed by Brae and myself to help teach students about nutrition facts, food access and food affordability. The money pit is one of the activities the students said they enjoyed the most. It requires a team effort, students seek through “food cards” hand made by Brae and myself, they then have to go up to board and see if the foods the picked are nutritious per MyPlate standards and then also see what their cost is per serving. The task is to figure out if a healthy meal can be made for $1.25 since one and a half billion people live on less than $1.25 per day across the world. 

Brae talking to students at letter writing table.

Every student had an opportunity to write a letter to a Delaware legislator including our state senators, Senator Carper and Senator Coons, our state house representative, Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester and Governor Carney. We will be sorting and mailing these letters on the students behalf. We asked the students to provide a return address if they were able. The ages and backgrounds of those who attended were very diverse, we had students in elementary, middle and high school from public, charter and private schools attend from across the state of Delaware.

Learning about worms, gardening with Carrie Murphy, UD Extension

The University of Delaware’s Cooperative Extension program provided three of our activity sessions including a healthy food demo, a sustainable gardening demo and a food waste activity named “Food Waste Warriors.” Their assistance with this conference and the energy they put into each session was absolutely remarkable. So many students were surprised to learn that some vegetable regenerate, so you don’t need to throw away those carrot stems.

Food Waste Warriors

There were students shocked to learn about the 40% of food wasted in the United States on a regular basis. And I know every student and chaperone who tasted one of the fruit smoothies wanted to get their hands on those recipes, which they were given to take home. Every student who attended left having learned something new and I hope they went home and told their parents all about their day.

The Bear-Glasgow YMCA fitness routine, “Born to Move Youth Fitness Program,” was a smashing success as well. They had kids doing yoga and dancing all in span of 10 minutes. I don’t know how they had the energy to rotate through seven groups of students and get them all pumped up each time, but they did! Their music kept all of us energized and they were very generous to help us pull of a very large mannequin challenge when the adults from the Food Bank’s portion of the event ventured over to take a sneak peek at the “kid track” of the conference.

Dr. Ramaswamy, NIFA director

A man I admire very much, Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, Director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture with the United States Department of Agriculture, attended and took the time to talk with all of the students, chaperones and volunteers during their lunch break. He spoke about the movie Interstellar. In that movie, Matthew McConaughey’s character Cooper says, “We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars. Now we just look down, and worry about our place in the dirt.” Dr. Ramaswamy explained that this is happening and that we need to really pay attention to our resources and how we take care of them so we can feed a growing population. He spoke about the need for young minds and innovation, for astronaut farmers 🙂

Bag packing

Of course we also made time to pack 200 brown bags of healthy food for our guests to take home with them so if they see someone in need they have something to give. Or, if they are living in a food insecure household they will have something extra to snack on when they get home.

Last but not least I would be remiss to not thank Juan Castellanos, my dear friend and colleague who took photos throughout the event. His photos are wonderful and I’m thrilled to be able to share them with all of you through our Flickr album. The photos included in this post are all taken by Juan.

Again, for more photos from this amazing event, please check out our Flickr Album.

Happy First Day of Spring

Before we get into the highlights of what has happened since our last update we want to make sure you have all registered for the Coming Together Hunger Conference. We are co-hosting with the Food Bank of Delaware and are SUPER excited about this year’s event! We are anticipating nearly 200 students to attend for the Kid Track, but we are hoping all of you will attend on the adult side. Don’t worry, even the adults will have a chance to see what the kids are doing throughout the day.

Coming Together will feature both an adult track and kids’ track, with opportunities for both groups to come together to identify solutions to issues related to hunger.

I promise you that you will leave feeling inspired and you will learn something. Plus I would like to see you out, because you know we can only end hunger if we do it together.

Okay so what have we been up to since our last post. A LOT! You know we say that every time. Haha.

There have been a few code purples called in Delaware. We thought our winter had been mild and really it has been but the last couple weeks of winter went out in style bringing us frigid temperatures snow and even an ice storm! It was beautiful, but it was also really bad news for my friends without addresses.

We had a table at the 1st Annual Christina School District Family Resource Fair which was a big success. Many people came out to see what the community has to offer and we heard that the New Castle County library exhibit handed out over 100 new library cards to people! That is VERY COOL! I couldn’t be there for the event so my family helped out. My brother and sister, Finn and Amelia, they set up the table and they were happy to be able to support 3B. Plus they got to eat pretzels and have their face painted!

Town Square Delaware wrote an article about me. Ms. Christy Fleming came to visit me at my house and she interviewed me. It was nice to meet her and I appreciate that she wanted to know more about Brae’s Brown Bags. Ms. Fleming’s article shares how 3B has grown, “3B Brae’s Brown Bags helps get healthy snacks to the homeless and the needy. But it takes lots of time and coordination, and Brae now also counts on donations by schoolmates and others who read his blog because the charity has gotten so big.”

I was able to be a speaker at the annual Delaware FFA Convention earlier this month. It was nice to see a room full of students who care about agriculture and who realize that food insecurity is a solvable problem. They packed almost 500 bags of healthy food for people in need. We brought some home and the rest remained in the Kent County area to help any shelters who might needs extra supplies.

I found out that I am  a recipient of a 2017 Sodexo Foundation – STOP Hunger Youth Grant! This makes me very happy because it helps to keep 3B sustainable, but it also helps to show other kids that there are organizations out there who believe in them and believe that we are change makers. The Sodexo Foundation and STOP Hunger are empowering, they not only want to help end hunger but they also want to get kids involved and I am glad I can be one of those champions.

Last but definitely not least. I took a trip with my Mom up to New York to attend the Jefferson Awards Foundation annual gala at Gotham Hall. Yes, it sounds like something right out of Batman and yes I do think that is really cool. It was super fancy. There were a lot of incredible people there and all of them believe in public service, it was super inspiring to be a part of the event. I feel very honored that I was able to receive an activation award (Newark Post) on the same stage as Olympic Gold Medalist Laurie Hernandez and the great musician/social activist Harry Belafonte. Plus, I encourage all of you to look into the national LEAD360 winner for 2017! Her name is Emma Stumpf and she creates art kits to give to patients in children’s hospitals. She knows what it is like to be stuck in the walls of a hospital for long periods of time as she is fighting cancer and has been for many years. I didn’t get to meet her at the event because she was in the hospital having just come through her 17th brain surgery. She is definitely a huge inspiration! I hope you are willing to help her activate this project and help it to put smiles on the faces of kids across the country. I think it will be fun to help her with this project!

Helping to feed the hungry is a very important job

My blog readers, I’m sorry, I have been waiting too long to write to you. I will work on this. I get busy. Many of you have asked if I am feeling better and I would like to say that I am. My cough is all gone and I’m back in school catching up on things.

Braeden Mannering with Mayor Polly Sierer at Jefferson Awards CeremonySince I wrote a lot has happened. The Jefferson Awards dinner award ceremony in Newark was held on April 30 at Home Grown. I couldn’t stay long because I still didn’t feel well but I did get to see a lot of other young people who live in the Newark area and who are doing really awesome things. I am very impressed by what everyone is doing and I would like to offer a very special thank you to the Mayor of Newark, Polly Sierer for choosing Brae’s Brown Bags as her top project. It really means a lot to me and I hope I can do more in Newark to help people in need.

“Everyone deserves someone who cares. Everyone deserves a friend and that’s easy to do. So pack up a brown bag before you go to work. That way if you see someone in need you will have something you can give them. One brown bag can make you a champion.” – Braeden Mannering

I had a Skype interview with STOP Hunger on May 1st. I think it went well. It was hard to remember to look into the web cam instead of into the computer monitor and the monitor kept showing up in my glasses. I had to take them off. I’ll tell you more about that soon. You’ll be getting a super awesome fun update about STOP Hunger and the Stephen J. Brady Foundation 🙂

But now the update you have all been waiting for…

DSC_0220The Coming Together: Community Response to Hunger Conference update!

Wow!

To say that they event was a success is an understatement. (Okay that’s my Mom talking, but it’s true). We had nearly 200 kids attend from all across Delaware. There were 500 people at the conference and for the morning we all were in the same room learning together. One of the most eye opening moments of the group during the morning was when a student spoke during the town hall session and asked the legislators on the panel what they could do to help her family. She explained that she and her brothers and sisters don’t have food to eat every day.

We know that 1 in 5 kids are hungry. We know those numbers. We talk about that statistic. The morning of the hunger conference the number turned into the face of a real little girl right there in the room. It made a lot of people stop and think. It made me stop and think. To the panelists who answered questions from all of the kids, I thank you very much. I know it meant a lot to all of them and I wish we had more time to answer everyone’s questions. State Senator Bryan Townsend, State Senator Colin Bonini and Charlie Copeland, State Committee Chairman Delaware GOP many thanks.

Multimedia Design Challenge Winners' Wall

Multimedia Design Challenge Winners’ Wall

We had many of the Multimedia Design Challenge winners in attendance. We hung up their posters and essay on a wall for everyone to see. They were very good and covered a bunch of different ideas about food waste, food insecurity and the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. Please check out the complete list of winners here.

We had a special video message from none other than the amazingly gifted Food Network Iron Chef and TV Host on The Chew, MARIO BATALI.

He said he was sad he couldn’t attend the conference but encouraged all the kids to continue raising awareness about food insecurity. He even congratulated me for coming up with the idea. Thank YOU Mario for sending us a video message, how cool is that!?

Most of the day was spent in a great big room called the Wilmington Room and this was the “Kid Track” of the conference. We had eight different activities which groups of students rotated through and participated in together. Most of the activities required a group effort. The Bear-Glasgow YMCA was there with their “Born to Move” program for youth fitness. The exercises were super fun! Even two Wilmington Police Officers joined in on the fun!

The Delaware Cooperative Extension Master Gardener’s taught kids about planting their own food, every kid left with a plant. Tanya Steel and Haile Thomas cooked healthy snacks for the kids at a healthy eating demo and taught them about how important it is for everyone to be able to eat healthy. My Gram and Pop took care of the 3B bag packing table and handed out shirts. My Grandmom Stephan and my friend Suzy from North DelaWHERE Happening worked with a Food Bank volunteer on the Money Pit activity. 11182304_957346807639319_5697334352616091189_nMy Mom and me came up with that idea. Here’s our description of the game. “In a timed, interactive game designed by Braeden Mannering, himself, students will team up to dive into a money pit (ball pit) finding index cards with food items on them and then racing back to their table to create a nutritional meal out of their cards for under $1.25. As of 2015 (2011 statistics), the World Bank has estimated that there were just over 1 billion poor people in developing countries who live on $1.25 a day or less.”

We also had volunteers Linda and Mike Jarrell facilitate a “Power of Words” activity where the kids wrote how they felt about certain hunger themed quotes. They wrote such cool things that we are going to turn it into a book and send it to the volunteer, legislators and schools who participated in the event. It’s going to be awesome! My Uncle Greg and volunteer Katie Hegedus worked on a “Rice Bowl” activity which taught kids about the 1 in 5 children are hungry statistic. Then my friend Jada Littman and two legislative aides from the State Senate helped kids draw pictures or write letters to share their feelings about food insecurity. The letters will be sent to the students representative in Dover, Delaware. We are still working on matching up the zipcodes of the kids to their representative.

I’d like to thank Juan Castellanos, our photographer, the Food Bank of Delaware, the Food Research Action Center and Bank of America along with Senator Townsend and Jessica Stump for all their hard work in helping to plan this great event.

Now for some photos!