Eighth Grader Is Among PORCH Chapel Hill-Carrboro’s Newest Neighborhood Coordinators 

Notable Neighbors

Rohan Jensen, 13, is proof that PORCH volunteers can make a substantial difference in fighting food insecurity at any age. 

The eighth grader at Durham Academy is among PORCH Chapel Hill-Carrboro’s newest Neighborhood Coordinators. More than 125 Neighborhood Coordinators organize monthly food collections for a neighborhood or street. They are responsible for spreading the word about the designated day for the monthly food drives, picking up donations from nearby porches, and getting the non-perishable bags of food to a central location.

Rohan and his family, which includes two older sisters, moved to the Gimghoul neighborhood near UNC’s campus four years ago. Before that, they lived in Westwood, which had a Neighborhood Coordinator. Their family would often donate food. 

Gimghoul had previously had a Neighborhood Coordinator, but there’s been a recent lapse since the pandemic. 

For the family’s Diwali celebration last fall, they asked guests to either donate money to PORCH or bring non-perishables, instead of offering a host gift. They collected quite a lot of food, which prompted Rohan to talk to the PORCH team about becoming a Neighborhood Coordinator. 

In February, Rohan – who counts history as his favorite subject in school – led his first monthly food collection in his new role. About a week prior, he contacted neighbors using the listserv to inform them about his mission. He also installed a yard sign for neighbors to see as they passed. Although some neighbors responded that they couldn’t participate in February, Rohan was heartened to hear that people would be happy to give going forward. His family also donated non-perishables to help with the first month’s food totals. 

“He’s just getting started,” says his mom, Lisa Rahangdale. “He collected several bags of groceries this first month. He is building momentum.” 

“I participated in the YMCA Leaders Club last year,” Rohan says. “We had a speaker come and talk to us about PORCH, so I already knew the benefits of PORCH. In my school, we’ve had people talk about food insecurity. It’s something we can do. It doesn’t take that much time. It’s something to help other people.” 

Lisa adds that many community volunteer opportunities require that you be at least 14 years old. While Rohan’s parents need to drive him so that he can drop the groceries off each month at PORCH’s collection site, being a Neighborhood Coordinator is largely something he can do independently.

What would Rohan say to other young people considering the Neighborhood Coordinator role? 

“Take a shot. It doesn’t require that much effort, and it’s a good thing to do to bring the community together,” he says. “You get to talk to people in your neighborhood. And also, it’s a tangible effect you can make on your city or town.”