Empowering, Educating and Creating Community Through the Culinary Arts

Daily Point of Light # 7767 Mar 13, 2024

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Clelia Poujade. Read her story, and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light.

At just 17 years old, Clelia Poujade has already left a significant mark on her community by blending her passion for cooking with a mission to combat food insecurity. Through her initiative, Hands Together To Feed Chicago, Clelia has turned her culinary skills into a vehicle for change, serving more than 7,500 meals and raising substantial funds to support families who are unhoused and underserved.

Clelia shares, “I founded Hands Together to Feed Chicago my sophomore year of high school. My goals were to combat the food insecurity I’d witnessed in Chicago and create community through food.” Her initiative reflects a profound understanding of the power of food beyond nourishment. She sees food as a catalyst for community, connection and care.

Her approach to volunteerism is deeply personal and rooted in her cultural identity. “You might not have expected this, but I’m actually French. Growing up French, cooking and food was how I connected to my family and friends,” Clelia reveals. This connection propelled her to use her culinary talents to make a difference in her new home in Chicago, where she observed a glaring need for accessible, nutritious meals.

Clelia Poujade is the founder of Hands Together To Feed Chicago, an organization committed to combatting food insecurity in Chicago./Courtesy Clelia Poujade

Clelia’s involvement with local organizations, her role in leading volunteers and her creative fundraising efforts are testament to her leadership and dedication. She elaborates on her hands-on role, “As founder of Hands Together to Feed Chicago, I’ve reached out to organizations, recruited and trained volunteers and developed recipes.”

One of Clelia’s standout initiatives is the Valentine’s Day Bake-a-Thon, a testament to her ability to mobilize her community around a cause.

“Recently, I organized and coordinated a Valentine’s Day Bake-a-Thon where I partnered with 10 shelters, coordinated donations with five local bakeries, recruited and led more than 10 volunteers, and baked over 500 cookies myself to distribute over 1,400 Valentine’s Day treats to Chicago shelters.”

But Clelia’s vision extends beyond one-time events. She is committed to sustainable impact, aiming to equip others with the skills to nourish themselves.

“Eventually, I’d love to start hosting free cooking classes for community members,” she states, underlining her belief in empowerment through education.

Clelia’s “Everybody is Loved Here” project is all about inclusion, with Clelia stating, “I create art on diversity and inclusion so every kid can feel loved, valued and accepted for who they are, regardless of any differences.” This project, much like her culinary efforts, is an extension of her belief in the universal language of care and acceptance, manifesting in the warmth of a shared meal or the comfort of a familiar recipe.

Looking to the future, Clelia’s ambitions for Hands Together To Feed Chicago embody her forward-thinking and compassionate spirit. With plans to expand the initiative beyond Illinois and dreams of teaching cooking classes to empower individuals with self-sustaining skills, Clelia’s journey is far from over.

Clelia has hosted a variety of events, including birthday parties in shelters for people experiencing homelessness./Courtesy Clelia Poujade

“My dream is to make this nationwide, so that we can all come together through food and a shared love for all,” she shares, highlighting her vision of a world united by the simple yet profound act of sharing a meal.
Reflecting on the rewards of her volunteer work, Clelia shares a poignant memory: “The first time I hosted a birthday party at a shelter, I was hugged by a guest the second I walked into the door… Getting to meet people, who are so kind and grateful, and bringing them joy any way I can has made me so happy.”

The depth of Clelia’s impact is felt not only in the meals served and dollars raised but in the lasting relationships formed.

“Through food and joint gatherings, we’ve fostered friendship at community meals, birthday parties and more, and I’ve met incredible people,” Clelia reflects.

The friendships and bonds developed through these gatherings underscore the essence of community—that it’s not just about sharing resources but about sharing lives, stories and moments of joy. Clelia’s work with Hands Together To Feed Chicago transcends the act of feeding; it nurtures a sense of belonging and community among those who partake in the initiative’s offerings.

Clelia’s story is a powerful reminder of how individual passions can transform into public service. Her advice to others looking to volunteer is simple yet impactful: “Just get out there. Start by signing up with an organization near you that you’re interested in and go from there.”

Through her actions, Clelia Poujade exemplifies the essence of volunteerism—using one’s gifts to foster connection, uplift spirits and build a stronger, more compassionate community. As Clelia continues to lead and inspire, her story serves as a powerful testament to the impact of youth leadership in addressing complex social issues through empathy, innovation and the universal language of food.

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Clelia? Find local volunteer opportunities.


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