2021 JCF President Bree Saunders Interviewed

Josephine County Youth Foundation President Bree Saunders speaks to KTVL TV Station about the Bernie Meme to help raise funds for feeding families in Josephine County. The goal is to raise enough funds to feed 40 families for one month.


How a group of local students are using Bernie’s viral mittens meme to raise funds

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the student-led non-profit Josephine County Foundation has helped put meals on the table of those in need in the Rogue Valley. Now the youths are hoping to use the power of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ viral ‘mittens’ meme to generate even more help.

After an image of the Vermont Senator looking cold at the presidential inauguration went viral, he used the leverage of the image to raise funds for charity. The sales of shirts, sweaters and other merchandise bearing the image combined to raise $1.8 million for charity in his home state.

“We said, it’s such a good cause that he’s doing, why not use that same meme, put it in one of our own foods program pictures, and try to raise money for our own foods program in our community?,” said Misti King, program manager for the organization.

JCF enlists students to cook meals for the needy and is able to produce one whole meal for just $1. This year by using the power of the meme, that will be included in each meal sent to a family in need, they are hoping to drum up more interest from donors.

They have a lofty goal of reaching $2,000 this week, which will feed 2,000 meals to struggling community members.

The group began partnering with local farms and food banks to deliver both canned foods and fresh produce early last year. Anyone who is in need can arrange for a pick-up or delivery at Hidden Valley High School attended by many students members of JCF.

Bree Saunders, vice-president of the JCF and a student at Hidden Valley High School noted that the program not only helps those in need but also teaches students like herself valuable skills as they develop into community leaders. Recipes are often included with food boxes so recipients can learn to make meals themselves.

“We have a lot of students at our school that I see and they’re saying ‘Oh, I learned how to make this specific recipe because of you guys!’ And it’s like wow, we taught you how to do that. That’s so awesome. That makes me feel happy,” Saunders said.

The food program was first developed in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic when the JCF noticed that many of the students who made up their organization were struggling to get food on the table themselves.

“That’s when we started the foods program. We said ‘we see a lot of students and they’re struggling. They’re not getting the foods they need.’ We identified those students through the school district and we started putting together boxes. Nine hot meals a week,” King said.

JCF was founded in 2011 by members of the community looking to find a more direct way to support the less fortunate. Other projects include the student enrichment program, which allows Josephine County teachers to apply for funding to use on specific, out-of-the-box teaching opportunities.

“It’s so sad seeing the impact hunger has on children and especially students. It’s really nice being able to make a difference for these kids that are underprivileged,” said Bree Saunders, a Hidden Valley High School student and JCF Vice President. Saunders estimates they’ve delivered hundreds of meals per week.

Anyone looking to donate or get involved with the Josephine County Foundation can do so by going to their website.

“Mother Teresa once said if you can’t feed 100, then feed just one. And if you can feed somebody with only a dollar, how many people can you afford to feed?,” King said. “If you can afford to feed twenty, give us twenty bucks. We’ll feed them.”