‘Level up my impact’ — How a Fairfax Co. teenager is helping combat food insecurity

Fairfax County, Virginia, teenager Nirav Ramchandani launched the nonprofit Cease Hunger.

Growing up in Northern Virginia, Nirav Ramchandani watched as his parents donated food and clothes to people who needed them most.

As a middle schooler, he volunteered at DC Central Kitchen — he considers it his first experience “fighting community food insecurity.” And on a family vacation to India, he witnessed firsthand the number of people who don’t have access to consistent meals.

Ramchandani, now a high school junior in Fairfax County, launched the nonprofit Cease Hunger in May 2021 with the goal of combating hunger and food insecurity. He’s also in the final stages of creating an app that would connect food pantries with restaurants and other pantries that have extra food.

“I wanted to see what were the ways that I could level up my impact, because I noticed that while volunteering at food banks, they had a lot of excess,” Ramchandani said. “… Cease Hunger, it’s basically taking food from another food pantry to one that is in need.”

Ramchandani has formed partnerships with Panera Bread and Maple Avenue Restaurant in Vienna, which provide him with leftovers from the day. He picks up the food and delivers it to local food banks that may need the extra supply.

Ramchandani doesn’t yet have his driver’s license, though. So his parents, who are also involved in the nonprofit, drive him to locations where food has to be picked up. The family also doesn’t have a warehouse, so donations are stored in their pantry. He estimates he spends a handful of hours every week ensuring the nonprofit is running smoothly.

To date, Ramchandani said, Cease Hunger has helped about 30,000 pounds of food get donated.

“It really is true when they say that you feel more joy by giving back than receiving,” Ramchandani said. “It’s really true for me.”

Now Ramchandani is working to launch a web-based app that connects restaurants and other businesses with food banks and pantries, he said. The app, called Food Box, is in the final stages of testing and is expected to be ready soon.

It will be free and available to U.S. organizations, and will aim to “make sure that there’s no inefficiencies between food banks.”

Users will have the opportunity to both list items they may be able to donate and indicate they’re experiencing a food shortage.

“You just make your request, or you tell people that you want people to come and get some [food] from you,” he said.

Ramchandani realized the value of his efforts at a distribution event for other nonprofits in the fall. A mother told him she and her kids only had one meal a day over a two-week period, so he made sure to give her some extra food.

“I feel fortunate to have food on my dinner plate every day,” Ramchandani said. “I’ve seen some people that don’t have it, and it just makes me feel like I should be sacrificing some of my time to give back to them.”

Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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