MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. – Each banana box at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank is filled with grocery items ranging from yogurt, snacks, meals, and everything in between.
The boxes are sorted by categories with the help of volunteers like 17-year-old Ryan Rossow.
“Just taking this step to sorting food so they can get it, is what needs to happen,” Rossow said.
The thought of someone going without food is what inspired Rossow, a teen from Manhattan Beach’s Mira Costa High School and a few other members to create a way to give back. Together the group created the South Bay Food Initiative two years ago.
Originally a club at their high school, now the initiative is a community organization that holds donation drives and volunteer events at soup kitchens as well as other nonprofits focused on ending food insecurity.
“The first event we actually ever came to was here at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. It was only a group of three or four of us and yeah, we just had such a great time that we were like, wow this is not only really fun to do, we’re helping a great cause,” Rossow said.
According to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, more than two million people in L.A. County are considered to be food insecure. It is a number that drives Rossow and the group’s now 50 members to hold volunteering events at least once every month with local nonprofits.
Aidan Vellega helped sort grocery items at the South Bay Food Initiative’s event at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. He is one of the initiative’s newest teen volunteers.
“I think it will inspire me to do more volunteering events. Previously, I felt like wasn’t doing as many as I should. But I think just after doing this experience, I think it feels awesome to help other people out,” Vellega said.
While the nonprofit is growing and inspiring teens like Vellega to give back — Rossow will soon head off to college after this school year. Rossow says he is working on a plan to pass on this initiative to other students in the community.
“We’re working on succession plans through organizations such as water polo sport teams as well, as Model United Nations that I’m a part of,” Rossow said.
Rossow and the organization’s founders still have time to figure out how to help other teens continue to pay it forward. So far, Rossow says the group has donated more than 1,600 pounds of food and $1,000 in monetary donations to local nonprofits.
Now, he is hoping the next generation will find a way to keep others inspired to give back.