Why would a 9-year-old start a food drive? His mother explains…

By Nicholl Salamone, Swedesboro, N.J.

Editor’s note: Rocco Salamone saw a statistic on the back of a Frosted Mini-Wheats box that said 1 in 7 children in America suffer from hunger. So, he started a six-week food drive in his New Jersey community called the “Hunger Reliever Team” that attracted hundreds of donations from families in a three-county radius. Rocco donated the food to three food banks that serve the communities whose residents contributed. His mother, Nicholl, takes us behind-the-scenes.

Rocco saw the statistic on the box and wanted me to explain to him how it’s possible so many kids in our country go hungry.

He’s a social kid by nature. He seemed really serious. I think it really bothered him, because he couldn’t believe it. He kept asking, “Is this true?” He was probably thinking about his classroom and the kids he knows, wondering if any of them go hungry.

The light bulb in his head went on almost immediately.

“I have to fix this, I need to get a team,” he told me.

Right away, he came up with the name “Hunger Relievers.” He drew a logo for the team’s t-shirt.

Rocco was really serious about solving this problem.

So, I posted a video of him talking about it on Facebook in late September and, since then, it’s been almost a daily or full weekend activity for our family. There’s been a lot of community outreach and involvement. We spent a recent weekend at a local community baseball tournament that invited Rocco to attend. They offered to create a competition for the baseball teams that whoever donated the most food would receive a free tournament next year.

We sent his video to some of his friends over messenger, since we haven’t really seen them during the pandemic. We reached out to a local t-shirt company and had shirts made for all the kids who joined his team. The t-shirts included the logo he created and was complete with their last name, favorite number and favorite food on the back.

It’s been a positive distraction for his friends and him to focus on during home learning. We raised $1,100 from friends, family, and the public, in addition to the pallets of food donated by Kellogg’s. Five kids and their parents went to the store to use the donations to purchase some of the food, while other kids helped pick up from those asking to donate, attended events like a local fashion show we were asked to attend or the baseball game.  They also helped to unload it in our garage, which was completely full.

We donated all the food to three of our local food banks this month.

I’d like to offer a sincere thank you to Kellogg’s, the friends, family members and residents of our community who helped Rocco make his idea a reality.

He says he’ll continue to lead the Hunger Relievers for the next 20 years, because he feels that’s how long it will take for him to solve childhood hunger.

Who am I to stop him?

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