A Conversation With Nate Noss, Young Social Entrepreneur And Founder Of St. Louis Food Rescue
Teens can do amazing things! They create Grammy Award winning music, play major league baseball, win Olympic gold medals, and make scientific discoveries. Teens are also making a difference, with much less attention and fan fare, in the area of community service and social responsibility.
| Posted in Not For Profit on Sep 3, 2012 by
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I would like to highlight the efforts and accomplishments of one teen for his volunteer work and community service: Nate Noss, the founder of St. Louis Food Rescue. Nate founded St. Louis Food Rescue when he was only 15 years old. Now he is 17 years old and finishing up his high school years at Lafayette High School, and the St. Louis Food Rescue has expanded greatly and shows promise to grow beyond the St. Louis area. I had the opportunity to catch up with Nate for an exclusive interview:
What is St. Louis Food Rescue?
Our mission statement is: "To alleviate hunger in our community by collecting perishables that would have been discarded from local food retailers and immediately delivering them to the organizations most in need, and to inspire and motivate young people." In other words, we are a group of teenage volunteers who go to stores and bakeries to pick up unsold food and bring it to charitable organizations.
What or who inspired you to launch the organization?
It began when I started to volunteered at the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry when I was 11, which was a great experience. I stuck with it, starting with going around once a month and eventually reaching 150 hours per year by the time I was fifteen. At this point in time a new manager started and decided that there would be no more bakery donation because it wasn't healthy. Whenever they got them, they were simply thrown away. I thought that throwing away food that could have been eaten was not right; many people do not realize it, but people die of hunger in St. Louis. That was when I decided I could do more than just volunteer. So, at the age of 15, I began to ask food retailers in the St. Louis area for perishable food that they would otherwise have thrown away.
It must be very satisfying to see your idea become a reality and make such an impact in your community. Which part of your work with STLFR do you find most rewarding?
Just the feeling you get knowing you are helping people. One specific occasion that comes to mind that really embodies this feeling was when I was handing out food to the homeless at the New Life Evangelistic Center. I handed a bunch of grapes to a man, who looked at us dumbfounded. He proceeded to tell me that he hadn't had a grape in 20 years. He went on to say that he had suffered two strokes, and having no medical insurance and no other help, he was basically thrown out onto the street. He couldn't afford food like fruit and vegetables. So just thinking about how every one of those boxes can feed so many people like him, knowing that you're helping so many people, is what I find most rewarding.
What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment to date?
That's a very good question. With St. Louis Food Rescue we
deliver food every day, which is always an accomplishment, since we feed around 5,000 people a week. So I would have to say just being able to do what we do is my greatest accomplishment.
What are the greatest challenges you have faced building your organization?
The greatest challenge I faced was my age. I started St. Louis Food Rescue when I was 15, and I had to convince food retailers to donate. One store I would like to thank is Whole Foods, they were very open and generous; other stores, not so much. A manager at one store laughed at me. People didn't take me seriously at just 15 years old. Many people don't seem to think that young people are capable of managing a charitable organization. I feel bad for other young people who want to do great things but think they can't, or try and fail, because of this attitude.
Was it difficult for you as a teen, to secure partners and sponsors for STLFR?
At times yes. Again, I would like to extend a huge thank you to Whole Foods. I thought they were going to donate just a couple loaves of bread, but in fact they donated enough to fill our SUV to the roof. Like I said before, some people laughed, but if you keep on pushing and asking, eventually you'll get somewhere, like I did.
What is your vision for STLFR five years from now?
I want to keep on doing what we have been doing, and expand. One way I think we could expand quickly is through our Pumpkin Project, which is when we search for pumpkin patches and ask them to donate pumpkins they would otherwise throw away, and then use those pumpkins to make food, like pumpkin bread. Last year we saved 1,500 pumpkins and made 10,000 meals with them. This is a very engaging project, so I think it would be easy to recruit volunteers in other areas of Missouri, and hopefully across the nation. That way we can have a core of volunteers to expand our Food Rescue to other areas of Missouri and the United States. Also, when I go to college I will give the leadership role to other teens.
What advice to you have for other teens interested in making a difference?
Don't let the age barrier stop you. People tend to stereotype teenagers as troublemakers, not as valued members of society, when in fact most teens do a lot of good. So if you have an idea or any goal in mind, keep on pushing no matter what. It takes a lot of work, but you can do it.
Did you have help & support from any local company or individuals to get your organization off the ground?
When it comes to individuals, I really have to thank my friends. Eric Engel, Will Hopkins, who are two of my close friends, manage the whole organization with me, and most of our original volunteers were friends as well. Some companies that helped me were Whole Foods, Einstein's Bagels, and Isle of Capri Casinos. Isle of Capri Casinos in particular helped me in that their CEO provided me with contacts to other companies, gave me a huge donation that helped to fund the Pumpkin Project, and also helped me with my communication skills.
Thank you Nate, for sharing your incredible story of commitment to your community and fighting hunger.
To learn more about St. Louis Food Rescue visit stlfoodrescue.org or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hunger St. Louis Food Rescue Nonprofit Young Social Entrepreneurs Nate Noss St. Louis
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