Young Advocates Council Helps Provide Access to 100,000 Meals

The group of teenagers learned about food insecurity, volunteering and fundraising during the 2023-24 school year.

Alexa Hoedebeck knew very little about food insecurity when she joined the North Texas Food Bank’s Young Advocates Council. A few years later, Alexa is so invested in the NTFB’s mission that she served on the Young Advocates Council, as an NTFB volunteer junior kernel and as a co-founder of a club at her high school that raises money for the Food Bank.

“This organization showed me that even the smallest actions can help a community in a large way,” says Alexa. “I learned that some things may seem small to you, such as volunteering for three hours, but they can have a huge impact on the people around you.”

Alexa is one of 77 students from 35 different area high schools who recently completed their time on NTFB’s Young Advocates Council. The group engages dedicated and entrepreneurial students to collaborate with their peers and NTFB’s Board of Directors, Young Professionals and executive leadership team as they work to close the hunger gap in North Texas.

During the 2023-24 school year, the group raised over $32,000 through their online peer-to-peer fundraiser and in-person at five farmers markets during March and April. For each individual who donated to NTFB, the Young Advocates gave them a hand-painted tote bag as a thank you gift. The fundraiser was one that the students planned as a team, dividing into five groups so they could organize and implement the initiative without missing any detail.

Along with their fundraising effort, the teens completed three volunteer shifts with the NTFB. Several also helped start clubs at their schools to raise awareness of food insecurity.

“We really saw the vision for the Young Advocates Council come together this year,” said Johnny Jenkins, Strategic Initiative Manager for NTFB who oversees the council.

Daniella Woodhouse, co-president of this year’s Young Advocates Council, said she was so excited to hear from Johnny about how much they had raised together. Especially amazing was learning that the money they’d raised was enough to provide access to around 100,000 meals.

“At several other organizations I volunteer at, I tend to wonder where my time goes as well as the money, but volunteering at the NTFB as a whole, I know that whatever I do will make a difference and at the end of the year, that vision truly came true, which made me extremely pleased,” Daniella said. “Whenever you come to the NTFB, any act of service will tremendously change someone’s life.”

Both Daniella and Alexa said they learned a lot about food insecurity, including that more people face hunger now than even at the height of the pandemic. In NTFB’s 13-county service area, around 640,000 people face hunger, including one in six children.

“When discussing food insecurity, it’s not always something that is noticeable or something that you can point at and see,” Alexa said. “Sometimes people hide the fact that they need food and that they’re hungry because they could be embarrassed or not want to admit they need help, which is why what the Food Bank does is so important. They help people without questions, and they help everyone no matter whether they’re little kids or the elderly.” 

Applications are open now for the 2024-25 Young Advocates Council. Daniela and Alexa both encourage anyone who’s interested in making an impact in their community to apply. Daniela adds that it’s especially fun with friends.

“The YAC helps bring light to an amazing cause and gets high schoolers involved in their community, so why not hang out with your friends volunteering and fundraising to help support this cause?”

Kathleen Petty is a communications manager for the North Texas Food Bank.