2023 Amazing Kids - Lake Oswego
School: Lakeridge High School
Hometown: Lake Oswego
WHY SHE IS AMAZING: Julianna Cahill uses her voice to advocate for food insecurity. As a student board member for Hunger Fighters Oregon, she’s a leader who loves to visit elementary schools and talk to younger students about the pressing issue.
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Lakeridge ninth-grader tackles food insecurity
Julianna Cahill thinks anyone can get involved in the fight against food insecurity. It doesn’t matter if you’re an adult, a teenager, or an elementary school student, Cahill will put in the work to communicate how everyone can make a difference.
As a Hunger Fighters Oregon student board member, Cahill has had plenty of experience speaking out as the youngest in the room. The Lakeridge High School freshman is passionate about Hunger Fighters, a Lake Oswego based food pantry and food insecurity nonprofit.
She leads talks at elementary schools, staffs the organization’s booth at local farmer’s markets, and is considering starting a Hunger Fighters club at her high school. When the Hunger Fighters board collaborates on new outreach and development projects, Cahill is speaking on behalf of her generation and their perspectives on the issue of food insecurity.
While it can be a bit “awkward” to be the youngest person in the boardroom, Cahill said she and her fellow student board member are met with respect and kindness. When Cahill presents to an elementary school, she gets to represent the Hunger Fighters Oregon leadership — and it’s there that she really gets to shine.
“With younger people, it’s like I’m that (older) person, which is also kind of fun to switch roles. So I’m the young person trying to run with the big kids, but then I’m the role model at the elementary school,” she said.
Cahill begins her presentation by asking, “How many of you have been to the grocery store?” A sea of hands shoot up. “‘So what do you need in order to buy food at the grocery store?’
And they’ll shout out, ‘Money!” Cahill said. “And we’re like: ‘OK, great. So our next question for you is, what happens if a family doesn’t have enough money to buy food at the grocery store?’
And then we go: ‘That’s where we come in.’ We’re hunger fighters. This is what we do. This is our mission. This is our vision.” The presentation highlights the difference between “hunger” and “food insecurity” so the younger audience can understand how to help those in need.
Cahill first became aware of Hunger Fighters at the beginning of the pandemic when she was still in the sixth grade.
“They were worried about shutting down schools because children wouldn’t have the free and reduced lunch program, and they wouldn’t have breakfast and lunch at school every day,” Cahill said.
“If we shut down schools for public health safety, then our children won’t be able to eat, and that was just so awful and disgusting to me.”
Hunger Fighters Executive Director Christina Fisher said Julianna steps up every chance she gets. “She jumped right in and wasn’t afraid amongst all the adults in the room,” said Fisher. “She’s super enthusiastic and attentive. When we first started, it’s worth noting that our board meetings were still on Zoom. It could’ve been easy for her to space out, but she jumped in with thoughts and questions.”
Fisher said hosting Hunger Fighters assemblies for elementary and middle school students was the student board members’ idea. She also said Julianna is always the first to second a motion on the board and has made her presence in the organization felt.
“Helping your neighbors when they need it creates a thriving community for all of us, and she’ll be part of that conversation in the future,” Fisher said. “I love getting the experience.
I think it’s just an absolutely perfect workplace,” Julianna said. This role has pushed her into new opportunities to garner leadership experience and involvement by working with a tight-knit, passionate nonprofit like Hunger Fighters.
Cahill hopes her work with Hunger Fighters will continue to highlight the problem of food injustice in the Lake Oswego community