Meet the Alliance’s Newest Youth Advisor: “Outstanding Teen” Jessica Baeder

October 10, 2017

Jessica Baeder – Alliance to End Hunger Youth Advisor

Editor’s note: Jessica is “2018 Miss America’s Outstanding Teen.” See her bio below this article to learn more.

My passion for promoting food security came about through my experience and work emphasizing healthy eating. When I was 10 years old, my family had a life-changing experience—my mom was diagnosed with cancer. Healthy eating quickly became a huge part of her recovery. As nutrition and healthy eating became an integral part of her and our family’s prevention plan, it also fueled my desire for service, focused on health and nutrition. I traveled to area schools promoting healthy food choices and active lifestyles.  Because of doing this work in Alabama, I quickly became aware of the problem of  “food desert” communities where families are not able to access fresh produce.  I also became aware of issues with food insecure children who rely on school meals as their only reliable source of food each day.

This was all shocking to me and I resolved to get more involved – and to get more teens involved!  We need to step outside of our “comfort zones” and recognize the needs around us – and it is SO easy to get involved and make a difference.

So far, I have spent over 800 hours of volunteer time dedicated to community service at both the policy and ground level related to my “Healthy Food for All” platform, including speaking at schools, meeting with legislators, working in community gardens and mobile food distribution programs, raising money, organizing healthy food drives, meeting with collaborators, and establishing partnerships with organizations and companies.

In communities, I created two innovative programs. The Fresh Fruit 4 Kids campaign is in many local grocery stores. I convinced all the grocers in my local area to make a basket of fresh fruit available for kids to sample for free, thus promoting healthy snacks and more purchases of fresh produce. Jessica’s Pantry is a healthy food drive initiative I created to supplement summer lunch programs for low income children. Recently, I was thrilled to be named as the only teen member of the Task Force to End Child Hunger in Alabama and now am SO excited to serve as a teen advisor for the Alliance to End Hunger’s teen engagement work! I hope to use social media and in-person meetings and presentations to motivate more teens to get involved in hunger initiatives.

I believe teens are looking for ways to make a difference in their communities. This work is so incredibly tangible, and I see real solutions happening. I am inspired by what the Alliance to End Hunger and all its member organizations do, and I am honored to be a part of the work! For me this will be a life-long journey. I am committed to hands-on service, being a voice for positive change, and creating a nation of healthier children and families.

Jessica Baeder is a senior at Auburn High School in Alabama. She is President of the debate team, was Vice-President of the Student Council, and is a member of the National Honor Society, the National Technical Society, and the National Mathematics Honor Society.  She is a competitive dancer and has trained with the American Ballet Theatre and the Rockettes in NYC.  She has a second degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do.  She aspires to obtain an MD/PhD and work as an orthopedic surgeon and biomedical engineer in the U.S. military. In July 2017, Jessica represented the state of Alabama in the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen competition and was awarded the title. She is now traveling the country serving as the national Goodwill Ambassador for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, and promoting her platform, “Healthy Food For All.”  The Miss America’s Outstanding Teen organization is more of a program than a pageant.  It promotes academic achievement, health and fitness, public speaking skills, and community service.  All contestants develop a personal “platform” and are judged separately on this area.  Jessica has received the Duke of Edinburgh’s Silver Medal award, the Governor’s Commendation for Community Service, and was selected for the “Teens in Action” Award for her platform work at the national MAOTeen competition.