Riley Silverman, 12, of Charleston, South Carolina, a seventh-grader at Haut Gap Middle School, is an active hunger-fighter in his community whose efforts include helping to pack weekend meals for students in need, maintaining a school vegetable garden that provides fresh produce to a local shelter, and raising money to pay off student lunch debts. Since he was 5 years old, Riley has enthusiastically participated in his older brother’s nonprofit to provide lunch bags for kids who didn’t have enough to eat on weekends; as “snack chef,” he’s helped prepare healthy snacks, and given demonstrations on how to make them at home, for nearly 3,000 kids and parents volunteering at the group’s packing parties. And as the co-founder of an initiative called “Catch Up on Lunch,” he has partnered with two groups to hold restaurant “spirit nights” that raised $25,000 to cancel the lunch debts of students at four schools. “When kids are hungry, they can’t enjoy school, and then won’t get the good grades that matter to get started in life,” explained Riley.
Riley is also an active “grower” with Katie’s Krops, an organization that mobilizes kids across the country to grow fresh produce for people in need. To further address the issue of hunger, he asked his principal for permission to plant three vegetable garden beds on his school grounds, then bought supplies, recruited volunteers, and ultimately donated 25 pounds of green peppers, squash and basil to a local shelter. He also conducted hands-on planting workshops for 55 kids. “These projects make the world a better place,” said Riley, “and they also helps kids think more about other people.”