Inspiring Youth Project: Bringing Food Pantries to New, Reusable Heights 


We’re approaching the end of the year, and in the United States, this means we’re surrounded by holidays with food at the center! Because many people are getting together to celebrate with friends and family, we usually see a lot of wonderful food collection events and other projects relating to food banks, all with the aim of lending a hand to neighbors in need. One Roots & Shoots group in Canoga Park, California, has been organizing monthly food distribution services for nearly four years, serving about 3,000 low-income families in their community with every distribution. Last year, they decided to take it a step further, with 🔗 Sustainable Bags

Roots & Shoots youth members in this group are part of the 🔗 Bridge to the Future Scholars Program at their high school, which uses the Roots & Shoots 4-Step Formula to make an impactful project by Step 1: Inspiring rising seniors to pursue a higher education with financial support, mentoring programs, and college preparation workshops. As part of the requirements for this program, students are encouraged to play an active role in in their community, so these young leaders work with the Neighborhood Partners in Action Group to distribute food to local food pantries! 

However, as the food was being distributed to families in single-use plastic bags, this Roots & Shoots group Step 2: Observed that a lot of unnecessary waste was being created. Since they were spending money paying for these plastic bags each distribution, it also made more financial sense to buy reusable bags that families could bring back to the food pantries each month.  

With this information, they quickly Step 3: Took Action, opting for a combination of cloth bags for everyday use, and insulated bags for items that need to remain refrigerated—many of the families collecting from these food banks are either walking or using public transportation, so there’s more time for food to go bad. Outside of the food distribution centers, these families can use these bags for any number of other purposes, then simply wash and reuse them without the waste of plastic bags! 

Step 4: Celebrate of the Roots & Shoots 🔗 4-Step formula is about reflecting on the successes and challenges of your project, and assessing what work still needs to be done. That’s where this story started, and that’s where the story will continue! As the next group of rising seniors observes the effect of giving out reusable bags at these food distributions, we can’t wait to see how they continue to find ways of innovating and building on the work of the students that have come before them! 


Once you’ve signed up as a member and come up with a project, be sure to register it on our website for a chance to be featured in a future project of the month! Not a Roots & Shoots member yet? You’re only a few clicks away! 

Become a Member and Register your Project 

Not sure how to start a project? Use our 🔗 4-Step Formula to find ways to make an impact in YOUR community! Remember to invite your friends to help out, because even when we take small actions, they’re multiplied by collaboration. You can even create a Roots & Shoots group at your school, or join one already in your area! 

Looking for a simple way to help out? Here are some 1-click actions you can take to reduce plastic waste and fight food insecurity in your community! 

🔗 Waste Not: Use our guide to do a plastic waste audit, and see where you can eliminate single-use plastics from your routine! 

🔗 Spread the Hope: Spread the hope in your community by finding food banks and other food distribution centers near you! 

About Author

Kira is the communications coordinator for JGI programs at the Jane Goodall Institute USA, where she supports the team in advancing public engagement with JGI's holistic programs. Kira graduated from Smith College in 2021, majoring in anthropology and minoring in art history, and during her time there she developed a deep interest in the field of anthrozoology. Her interests within this field are broad, and have led her to study elephant iconography in the U.S. and wildlife management in Tanzania. JGI's values and mission as well as the mindset of anthrozoology guide her work, exploring the interactions between humans and other animals in order to promote a healthier coexistence on this shared planet.