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State Honoree

Photo of State Honoree Carson Pazdan

Carson Pazdan

Barrington, Illinois

Carson Pazdan, 16, of Barrington, Illinois, a sophomore at Barrington High School, has raised more than $170,000 and collected thousands of pounds of food over the past 11 years to feed the hungry by publishing a kids’ cookbook, conducting other fundraising activities and running two large food drives each year. When he was 5 years old, Carson often helped his mother in the kitchen and would play around with his own recipes. One evening, they talked about hunger. “The concept that not everyone had food to eat was new to me at that young age,” he said. “I remember feeling both sad for people facing hunger and a strong urge to help feed them.”

Carson decided to create a cookbook by kids, for kids. With help from his mother, he compiled recipes from more than 800 other young people, printed 2,000 cookbooks and recruited “an army of kids” to sell them at schools, churches and community events. The venture raised $40,000 for the Northern Illinois Food Bank. Carson then began conducting food drives twice a year at a local elementary school. Every May, he and other members of his “Kids Feeding Kids Club” ask parents to participate in a “drive-thru” event by loading their cars with food donations and dropping them off at the curb in front of the school. In October, students are given bags to take home and fill with food from their families’ pantries. All the donations are sent to the Cuba Township Food Pantry. Carson’s club also has organized fundraisers including “A Magical Matinee” at a movie theater and “Stars & Cars” at a car dealership -- all designed “to help feed our hungry neighbors,” he said.