Isobel Costello, 17, of Andover, New Jersey, a senior at Newton High School, sends home bags of weekend food and hygiene items with more than a hundred elementary and middle schoolers in need at seven Sussex County schools, providing more than 10,000 meals last year alone. In the fall of 2016, when she was a freshman, Isobel heard kids at school talking about not having food or basic items on the weekends, when they didn’t have access to free meals at school. “The issue of juvenile food insufficiency is important because it is extremely hard to educate a student with an empty stomach who is not comfortable or focused enough to learn,” said Isobel.
With help from her mother and sisters and permission from her school district, Isobel started providing 10 children with food bags filled with items that she and her family shopped for and then packed at home. As more children were identified by a school liaison, it became clear that she needed help. So she formed a nonprofit called “The Weekend Bag Program Inc.,” recruited student and adult volunteers to join her, and found a permanent space to store and pack food bags. She also established relationships with churches, scout troops, 4-H clubs and community organizations to help collect donations and raise money. On average, Isobel spends about 15 hours a week on her project. After she and fellow volunteers pack the bags, she delivers them to the schools participating in the program, which then distribute them anonymously to children who might otherwise go hungry.