BALTIMORE — This Thanksgiving, when most of us were busy preparing for the big meal of the day, Benn Friedman and his seven-and-a-half year old son Jayden Steiner-Friedman were handing out small meals outside the Manna House in Baltimore.
Thousands of small meals.
“We put our minds together and do 2,020 [lunches] for 2020,” said Benn.
The process of putting the lunches together, which would end up being closer to 3,000, started the day before in the Friedman’s backyard with a socially-distanced assembly line of volunteer sandwich makers.
They had local companies like H&S Bakery, Utz, Classic Catering and Chick-fil-A donate items to fill the bags with sandwiches, snacks and water.
Benn said their mission to feed the homeless started with one extra sandwich a month to donate to Bunches of Lunches. Its a program at Jayden’s school, Krieger Schechter Day School, where kids pack an extra lunch and decorate the bag to give to a homeless shelter.
“We started off with one sandwich, one lunch and then Jayden asked me, the next time we did it, to make two lunches because he said there’s more than one homeless person out in the world,” Benn said. “So we made two sandwiches at that time.”
The number continued to grow and this past October, Benn, Jayden and volunteers packed 1,000 lunches to give to homeless shelters.
But they weren’t done yet.
The Friedmans decided to up the number to 2,020 lunches to hand out on Thanksgiving at places like the Manna House in Baltimore, under the JFX overpass and to local police.
“He’s a very caring, we’re both caring, and he feels bad and he wants to make a change,” said Benn. “He wants to see if he can be the leader and if other people will follow and try to help out the world.”
And that’s exactly how Jayden’s teachers describe the first grader, as a leader and inspiration to others in the school to do more, even in the confines of a pandemic.
“They still put their action into place for the community. They reached out beyond their four walls and its very powerful and inspiring,” said Wendy Gelber, the head of the lower school at Krieger Schechter.
“We’ve taught all of our students, and Jayden really took it to heart, about helping others and providing what we can,” said Yael Lowenberg, Jayden’s teacher. “He took that and expanded it so much, to help 3,000 people.”
Benn, with the help of Jayden, is starting a non-profit called Smiles for the Homeless. It’s what Jayden says is the whole reason why he’s on a mission to make as many meals as he can.
“I want to see smiles on every homeless person in the world,” he said.
The Friedmans are collecting toys in December to give to children in need. If you'd like to donate, you can contact Benn at email@example.com.