New Castle News

Closer Look

April 24, 2013

Meal maker: Neshannock teen fighting childhood hunger

NEW CASTLE — On stage, Gianna Cherry is a Mini Star. In the community, she’s a Souper Star.

A member of the New Castle Playhouse Mini Stars for the past two years, Gianna recently received a $500 grant from the Sodexo Foundation and Youth Service America, which recognizes young people working to fight childhood hunger.

Funds from the grant will be used to support Sunday’s Empty Bowls event at Clen-Moore Presbyterian Church. Along with a reusable banner, the Sodexo youth grant money provided T-shirts for volunteers.

In her application, Gianna, a 14-year-old Neshannock High School freshman, renamed the troupe of young entertainers the Souper Stars and offered the 30-member group’s assistance at the Empty Bowls meal benefiting the Lawrence County Summer Food Service Program for children in need.

In addition to performing free of charge at the event, the Souper Stars are helping plan, promote, organize and serve the simple meal designed to remind participants that many people in the community struggle daily to feed their families.

The daughter of Tracy and Brian Cherry, Gianna learned of the grant, and the need for the summer food program, from her mom, who is director of workforce programs for the Lawrence County Community Action Partnership and a member of the summer food service program task force.

Gianna’s own work with children in need began last summer, when she began volunteering at one of the summer food sites supported by LCCAP.

“We take volunteers of any age,” her mom explained. “We don’t have any money to pay to staff the program, so volunteers are critical to its success.”

Gianna spent her time at a site at the Ben Franklin Early Learning Center setting up tables and helping to clean up. She plans to do again this year.

“I was nervous at first, not ever working before or knowing how to handle or serve food. I realized that it didn’t matter how competent I was because the children ... didn’t care. They were hungry ... and really just wanted a safe place to go and play with other children and have a hot meal,” Gianna wrote in her grant application.

“I know that kids are picky eaters, but I observed that not much food was wasted because the food was good and there were many kids that stuck around for seconds … I think it may be because it was their only food until the next day,” she wrote.

“It was sad seeing so many kids so hungry because that was the only meal they got in a day,” Gianna said. “But it made me happy to be able to help out.”

In addition to her work with the food program, Gianna helps with vacation Bible school at St. Vitus Church.

“It makes me feel like a good person when I help out,” she said.


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