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Local teen helps hand out thousands of pounds of fresh produce

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Posted at 4:08 PM, Aug 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-07 18:34:19-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Forty thousand pounds of fresh produce is being handed out to families in need, and a Virginia Beach teenager is helping make it happen.

Thursday at Birdneck Elementary, as well as two other Virginia Beach elementary schools, boxes of produce were being handed out, and it was 15-year-old Natalia de Los Rios who got the ball rolling.

"Well, I think it says you can do anything you want to. You just need to be proactive; you need to ask, because the biggest thing I learned is that people are very helpful. If you just ask them, if you pitch them an idea, most of the time they will try to do it to make it happen."

She started a local chapter of the non-profit Food Rescue U.S. and she partnered with a federal food box program, along with Virginia Beach Public Schools, plus Grammy award-winning producer Pharrell Williams to include facial coverings in the boxes.

She's aware there are other ways a teenager could be spending their summer.

"Yeah, well, being out of school and everything and not being able to go anywhere, I really just, like... I thought this was the time I need to be doing something. I know there are communities... that food insecurity, food waste - it doesn't stop when we're social distancing. So, I thought we need to be out here any way we could."

The Princess Anne High School student has a strong reaction when she sees the families who show up and are benefiting from the program, "It just makes me feel so fulfilled I guess, but it also shows me that I need to keep doing something. It motivates me to keep continuing keep making it bigger and bigger. With Food Rescue U.S., I obviously have a chapter in Virginia Beach, but I want to expand it to Hampton Roads and then if I can expand it to Virginia. I want to make this as far reaching as possible because I want to get to all the people who need the food."

Her effort provided 1,600 boxes of fresh produce to families in need. She hopes it can become a weekly effort.

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Kip Poole, who is the district chef for the Virginia Beach School System was glad to partner with Natalia and says this is a wonderful program.

"With everything that's going on in the world today, this really just shows that there is a lot of amazing things - a lot of positive stuff going on in the world. "

Natalia's mom, Sandra, is to no surprise, very proud of her daughter.

"Yes I am. I am very proud of her. She's always been a proactive person, so it didn't really surprise me that she's doing it."

And Natalia wants this program to grow.

"With Food Rescue U.S., I obviously have a chapter in Virginia Beach, but I want to expand it to Hampton Roads and then if I can expand it to Virginia. I want to make this as far-reaching as possible because I want to get to all the people who need the food."

For that, News 3 presented Natalia with a People Taking Action award and our community partner, Southern Bank, presented her with a $300 Visa gift card.

To nominate someone for a People Taking Action Award, email us at takingaction@wtkr.com.

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