BURLINGTON, Mass.—Newly-crowned Miss Boston and Weekly contributor Kristina Ayanian is lending a helping hand during the current pandemic as the driving force behind a food donation project for local pantries and hospitals.
“I didn’t think it was going to get this big. I have no room in my car,” said a rather emotionally overwhelmed Ayanian during a FaceTime interview from her Burlington home. “Everyone has been so responsive.”
This past weekend in inclement rainy weather with her proud mother Lousineh in the passenger seat of her Volkswagen Jetta, Ayanian started her route after leveraging her social media accounts (@kristinaayanian and @missbostonorg), inviting her followers and neighbors to leave non-perishable items on their front porch for her to pick up. Following her interview with the Weekly on Monday, Ayanian delivered a total of 41 bags and nine boxes of donated items from 17 households to the Burlington Food Pantry.
“We are fortunate to see the beautiful side of this whole ordeal with our neighbors responding in the way they have been,” said Burlington Food Pantry coordinator Cheryl Barnes in an interview with the Armenian Weekly.
The Burlington Food Pantry is part of the Greater Boston Food Bank network, which is made up of more than 500 hunger-relief agencies throughout Massachusetts that are desperately trying to meet increasing demands from vulnerable families during this unprecedented crisis. “Donations are flying off the shelves just as quickly as they come in,” said Barnes, who also described her volunteer staff as “a skeleton crew” that’s taking extra precautions while practicing social distancing.
Ayanian is also raising monetary donations in her Venmo account (@Kristina-Ayanian), which she is using on massive grocery store runs to distribute to homeless shelters and healthcare workers on the front lines at Boston Medical Center. She has raised almost $1,500 so far from strangers and friends alike.
According to Feeding America, more than 37 million people suffer from food insecurity in the United States. While it remains unclear how much the current pandemic has impacted that figure, it’s still an upsetting reality for the 22 year-old, who has been a longtime advocate in the fight against hunger. As a student at Burlington High School, she served as a youth ambassador for Project Bread and would later organize fundraiser luncheons for the non-profit organization. She has also volunteered for Walk for Hunger and sorted and organized foods at the same food pantry she is now supporting with this current initiative, which seems to be rooted in her pledge to create social change during her tenure as Miss Boston. “Global citizenship starts at the local level. Little by little, it creates a domino effect,” explained Ayanian, who is getting word from California, London and Switzerland that her simple idea is inspiring others to act as well.
“She’s always been a happy kid,” said her mother Lousineh. “But in the past couple of days, I’m seeing a different happiness with her. She’s happy for other people.”
Ayanian is doing her best to adapt and stay optimistic during this time. She is working from home and clearing her mind at the piano. “It will pass,” she says. “We’ll get through it.”