Clean bins are placed in cafeterias of six Massachusetts middle schools, where students place their non-perishable, unopened snack items every meal. At the end of the week, members of Give Back the Snack—a non-profit organization created by Sia Gandhi ’24 and Simi Gandhi ’24—donate these items to local pantries nearest to each school in hopes of raising awareness for food insecurity.
According to Simi Gandhi, the twins first learned about issues of food shortage upon visiting their father’s hometown in Kenya. However, once they returned to their elementary school in Southborough, Mass., the two noticed that their classmates would throw uneaten snacks in the trash at lunch. The twins were in 5th grade when they came up with the idea for their non-profit, Give Back with a Snack, to reduce unnecessary food waste within the school community.
Simi Gandhi said, “When we were about seven years old, we went to our father’s hometown in Kenya, and while we were there in the beautiful country, we witnessed a lot of families living in poverty. We wanted to help, but we weren’t sure how.”
“We first started at our elementary school, and it was a big success there: we donated a lot of snacks. We donated I think three thousand in our first year… We currently have six schools and about four food pantries that we are including in the program, and this is the first year that we’re going to be launching it internationally,” continued Sia Gandhi.
One of the six schools in which Give Back with a Snack operates is Hopkinton Middle School in Hopkinton, Mass. Principal Alan Keller incorporated the program into Hopkinton Middle School about two years ago, and is still continually working with Sia Gandhi and Simi Gandhi.
Keller said, “I had a similar experience to what I think initiated [Sia and Simi] wanting to do that program, which was just seeing a lot of good food that was unopened and untouched being thrown out in the cafeteria every day, but never really took the next step. I never did and the fact that they did that says so much about who they are.”
Alongside the twins leading operations of the program, Give Back with a Snack student ambassadors contribute to the non-profit through their schools’ chapters. Students like ambassador Riya Dalal of Grafton Middle School bring donations to their local food banks and help with their school’s branch of the program.
“My job is to take the snacks from the school to the food bank, but also to try and persuade people to donate their snacks rather than waste them. The start of last year, I would donate each snack to the food bank every month. There would be 30 to 40 snacks in the bin, and a little more when the holidays came around,” said Dalal.
Give Back with a Snack works with many food pantries, including Project Just Because’s Massachusetts State Pantry. Founder and president of the project Cherylann Walsh said that the girls spread a positive impact with their program, and help those in need.
Walsh said that when going to schools, “they would let people know about the program and so people could put their snacks in their Give Back a Snack box. It’s a very colorful box they have, and it’s just a beautiful program, and then they’d come and bring it to us and then we distribute it. We check the dates, and they’re always beautiful, brand-new snacks, and [we] are able to turn around and give it to families in need and children who maybe wouldn’t even have a snack, because of them.”
Looking to the future, Sia Gandhi and Simi Gandhi are hoping to create a universal app for the program, and spread their program globally. They are looking for student help in finding new locations to implement their program. In addition to this, Simi Gandhi said that they are looking to find a new way for students to get snacks.
“Kids need food and snacks to keep them going and have them nourished throughout the school day, so we were hoping we can insert a bin in cafeterias in which students can just take snacks out of, no questions asked, so that way they would be able to be nourished and stay [focused] throughout the day,” said Simi Gandhi.
Over the five years of running their program, Sia Gandhi and Simi Gandhi have helped many families and children struggling with food insecurity, and taught others to do the same. Principal Keller attests to the importance of this.
Keller said, “It’s really powerful to think about the number of people who are giving something where otherwise, prior to Sia and Simi taking that step, that stuff was being tossed in the trash every single day. I can’t say enough good things about how they’ve made it so easy.”