True to their motto that “even the smallest task makes the biggest change,” best friends Amenah Charani (left, above) and Emily Fagan have delivered over 1,700 pounds of food to the homeless in downtown Orlando. Their current pickup spot is a Panera Bread near their neighborhood, but the teens would love to expand their route to include other local restaurants that would otherwise “just pitch” food at the end of the evening. You can cheer on their efforts via the Facebook page for Bread 4 Bellies.
When was Bread 4 Bellies Founded?
After some very serious discussions we decided to establish ourselves in January of 2013. The first month of a new year seemed like the most reasonable time to start really involving ourselves in helping others in our community.
What made you realize that Panera had so much extra food available? Both of us are HUGE Panera fanatics — we could eat there three times a day if we were allowed to. Late one night we were sitting newly-opened location and noticed that there were over 30 untouched pastries that left in the showcase and loaves of uneaten bread just sitting there. We decided that we’d ask what happened to all the bread that wasn’t used, and were told that due to their fresh bread policy it was “just pitched” with the rest of the days garbage unless a group comes to pick it up and take it to the homeless shelters.
How did you establish the relationship with Panera?
One night we called and spoke with one of the managers telling him about how unsettling it was that all this food is “just pitched.” We discussed how we would love to take the leftovers and really put it to a good use by bringing it to those who are in need. Panera has a policy that the leftover donations be given to any homeless shelter, and we were quickly assigned one night a week to pick up the leftovers to be delivered to a homeless shelter. We chose the Salvation Army in downtown Orlando because one of our grandparents is on the Orlando Women’s Auxiliary Board of the Salvation Army; we thought we would bring the donations to this shelter since it provides shelter and food for the homeless men, women and elderly.
How did you come to the decision to start doing the pickups?
Many adults think that as teens we aren’t aware of the poverty and the helplessness that is spreading across America each day, but really we’re more aware than ever! The fact that all this food, this delicious food, was being thrown out with the garbage each day wasn’t comforting, and from then on we just decided that we were going to help. Our few hours of service each week helps feed over 200 people!
What motivates you?
We have seen firsthand some of the bravest, most kind and passionate people we have ever met just trying to make it work. We admire the responsibility they have taken upon themselves to try and make a better life not only for themselves but others around them when they really have nothing. The look of pure gratitude on their faces from our simple task really makes what we do worth it. It’s honestly nothing more than that.
Q&A by Alexia Gawlak