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State Honoree

Andrew Leary

New Jersey

led a two-and-a-half-year effort by a group of students to establish the first permanent soup kitchen in the northern part of his rural county. While conducting research on hunger in the United States for a school project, Andrew discovered that hunger was an issue not only in other states and communities, but in his own neighborhood as well. To assess the scope of this problem, Andrew and his classmates organized a one-day “Harvest Festival” at his high school, where more than 60 meals and a half-ton of food were distributed – along with survey questionnaires. Over the next six months, Andrew’s committee collected additional data from books, government documents and social service agencies, and then presented its case to more than 130 community members. As a result, adults and students joined together to form a task force to pursue a permanent soup kitchen. Andrew represented the task force before community groups, news media and the county planning board, and won the necessary approval. He also helped raise $35,000 to operate the facility. Harvest House was dedicated last October and began serving lunches five days a week in February. “This project has taught me that even though I am a high school student, I have the vision and ability to change lives,” said Andrew. “I learned that standing up for what you believe in is not always easy, but through perseverance you can accomplish your goal.”