Karma for Cara Microgrants help fund exceptional projects led by youth 18 and under to help complete service projects in their communities. Read about our microgrant recipient Braeden Mannering, a 10 year old who founded 3B: Brae’s Brown Bags.
1. How did you become involved with Brae’s Brown Bags?
I got involved with Brae’s Brown Bags after winning the 2013 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge. The prize for being a winner was to attend the Kids’ State Dinner at the White House in July 2013 when I was 9 years old. I got to meet First Lady Michelle Obama and she asked how I might pay the experience forward of having won the challenge and visited the White House. There were a lot of homeless people in Washington, DC, especially near the train station. I also see a lot near where I live in Delaware. I wanted to be able to give the people money. My Mom told me to think about a way to give the homeless people something that would help them maybe in a more long term way. The 3B bags started off just being bags with healthy snacks, water and a note from me that includes contact information for additional services where the people can get further assistance. I have created new specialty bags also though. One includes books for kids, one includes winter gear for cold times of the year and the other includes toiletry items for people trying to re-enter the workforce. Everybody gets the healthy food, too.
2. Why is your work important to you?
Food is important to me because I really like to cook. When I started to learn about what I means to be homeless I also started to learn about food insecurity. I have done a lot of research about this topic. I have learned that 1 in 5 kids are food insecure. To me this means 6 kids in my own classroom might not know where their next meal will come from. I know there are some kids who don’t eat except for when they are in school. It makes my heart sad. There are grownups who don’t know how they will afford to feeds their families. Sometimes they have to choose if they eat or their kids eat. Sometimes they have to choose if they pay their doctor bill or their electric bill or pay for groceries. A lot of people end up buying unhealthy food because it is cheaper. I think it is a social injustice that all people are not given the chance to eat healthy. It makes me sad. I think all people should be able to eat good, healthy food. I mean that’s what you need to grow big and strong.
3. How did the money from the microgrant help with your project?
Two things about this microgrant. One this is the money. Yes the money helps because I depend on donations and grants to be able to fund the Brae’s Brown Bags project which is now an official 501(c)3 public charity. The toiletry items and hand warmers are most expensive and the least likely to be donated. We buy those on our own. In the winter season we go into stores and buy every hand warmer they have. This season alone there have been 24 nights where emergency shelters opened because it is so very cold out. We are asked to bring our bags to these places and we have been told that people like our bags because they are healthy but also because we include two hand warmers in every bag. I would not be able to afford to run the foundation with my Mom if we didn’t have help from grants like yours. The second thing though and you can’t really put a money value on it, is that it raises awareness when we win a grant. My mom and I work together on writing grants and finding awards to help Brae’s Brown Bags. We need the money but we also need people to know what we are doing. Maybe then they will help us or maybe then they will be inspired to go do good things in their communities. I’m working on developing an anti-hunger conference with the Food Research Action Center and the Food Bank of Delaware. We are going to bring the whole community together to fight against hunger. This will be the first conference ever to include kids! I’m very excited!
4. What message of giving back do you have for others?
Maybe the coolest thing so far about Brae’s Brown Bags, in addition to meeting really nice people in the soup kitchens and on the street, is that everyone I get to talk to always tells me they are proud of me. I know that sounds kind of prideful but the best thing about it is that I then get to tell them that I am not any different than anyone else. Everyone can pack a brown bag with items for low-income and homeless populations. Maybe you can’t deliver 50 at a time but you can pack one brown bag and have it in your car and give it to someone in need and it will feed their mouth but it will also feed their hearts with hope. I see people ignore the homeless all the time. Maybe they don’t know how to help. I tell people who are proud of me that I will be proud of them, too, if they go do something to change the world, too. Everyone can make changes in the world around them. Sometimes all you need to do is smile. Other times one simple brown bag can make a world of a difference.