Kids Cook Dinner to Fight Hunger

Meet superstar brother/sister donors Max & Alex Koster
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Brother and sister donors Max and Alex Koster visit the Action Against Hunger New York HQ in September 2015. Photo: E. Rapport

Over my years at Action Against Hunger, I've had the pleasure of meeting a number of our major donors -- but it wasn't until recently that I met our minor major donors. Brother/sister duo Max and Alex Koster may be just 12 and 10 years old, respectively, but they truly reflect the adage that age is just a number. Max and Alex are smart, savvy, and sensitive donors who used their entrepreneurial spirit and home-cultivated desire to make a positive change in the world to help us fight global hunger. I sat down with them and their mom, Kate, to hear their story. What follows is an excerpt from our interview.

Q: I know your generous donation to Action Against Hunger started with your love of cooking. Tell me about that.
Alex: We have always been the sous chefs for mom and wanted to get more involved. So we started cooking dinner ourselves.

Max: Mom encouraged us, she said "why don't you start to cook? Pretty soon you'll be on your own!" Mom started posting pictures of what we made on Facebook, and then we stepped it up to a blog.

Kate: The kids decided they wanted to share what they made in more detail than my Facebook posts. The blog format gave them more freedom to choose their own pictures. The kids always loved cooking, but it was more of a chore until they got to start choosing what to make. Every Sunday, generally, they cook dinner.

Alex: Mom and Dad take photos of us cooking, and Max usually takes pictures of the meal we cook.

Q: So you're busy cooking and blogging. Then you learn about a domain name contest.
Alex: Yes, it was a contest to win $35,000. We entered and we won!

Max: Mom was surprised! At first we thought it was a scam, but then mom, being a lawyer, realized it wasn't.
 
Kate: To mark the 30th anniversary of .com, Verisign, which is a domain name site, held a contest for people to submit domain names. The point was to show there are a lot of good names left! The kids entered their blog domain, kidscookdinner.com. The first round offered a prize of $5,000 to finalists -- and they won. Finalists then had to make a 90 second video convincing judges why their name was worthy of an additional $30,000 -- the grand prize.

Max: We made a video, like a rap, with chef hats on, and using pots and pans as instruments. We made the video in May.

Q: So you guys won the grand prize, $30,000, which with the earlier round $5,000 win brings you to a total of $35,000 -- congratulations! What was your reaction to winning?
Max: Mom called us at camp. I didn't believe her!

Alex: When we found out about the $30,000, it was on a call. Mom said it was a surprise. This was in July.

Q: Talk to me about your very generous decision to donate 1/3 of your winnings to a nonprofit -- specifically, to Action Against Hunger.
Alex: We always wanted to help charities that deal with food. Because we're so fortunate to have all the food we have.

Max: We made a plan to save 1/3 of the winnings for college, put 1/3 into the website, and give 1/3 to charity. We also get to keep $2,000 each for ourselves. 

Kate: They did research. Since they won the prize for a food website, they wanted to help people who don't have enough food.

Max: We had a list of our top three charities and we went on CharityWatch and the charities' websites, and determined we wanted to give 1/3 of our winnings to Action Against Hunger.

Kate: They were interested in finding a nonprofit that addresses hunger in kids, specifically. Action Against Hunger does that, and you give so much money back to the core mission.

From left: Alex Cottin, Action Against Hunger's Director of External Relations; Alex Koster; Max Koster; and Andrea Tamburini, Action Against Hunger's CEO, when Max and Alex delivered their donation check. Photo: A. Khan.

Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Alex: I'm still deciding!

Max: I want to pursue being an entrepreneur or engineer. I'm interested in inventing.

Kate: They both want to give back to their community, too.

Q: What's your favorite recipe that you've made? And mom, what's your favorite that they've made for your family?
Max: Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.

Alex: To cook, I like kale salad. I like to chop, but I don't like to eat it! To eat, my favorite is lamb shank.

Kate: I can't narrow down my favorite that they've made to just one! The braised lamb shanks they have really perfected. The kale salad is really, really good. The raspberry sorbet, too.

Q: That sounds like the perfect meal! How do you decide what to cook?
Kate: We usually decide the week of, even that Friday or Saturday. Sometimes we have a mental list. And sometimes we repeat recipes a couple of times.

Alex: A week ago we made a Greek feast. We went on vacation in Greece this summer and we made some of our favorite dishes at our friends' house upstate.

Q: What would you say to other kids who want to make a difference but maybe don't know how to get started?
Max: Try to be really passionate about something and then figure out how to give back.

Kate: It's easier to give back if it's something you love. The kids also donate $1 a week of their allowance to a charity jar. When the jar is full they decide where the money goes.

Alex: You can do it yourself. Give $1 from your allowance each week!

Q: Kate, how about advice for moms and dads who want to inspire a spirit of giving in their kids?
Kate: Giving back is really integrated into our family life. Lead by example. Be generous in spirit, not just in dollars. You also have to make it real and practical to get them involved. You can look at a website, or a donation jar. Make it real and tangible.
 

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About Elisabeth Anderson Rapport

Elisabeth Anderson Rapport, Senior Communications Officer

Elisabeth is Action Against Hunger's senior communications officer, reporting on our impact and current events around the world.