Glenwood’s Chandra Starr earns national honor
Chandra Starr is getting new recognition six months after she wrapped up her million penny campaign for local produce.
Starr, now an eighth-grader at St. Stephen’s Catholic School in Glenwood Spring, was featured in Scholastic News’ list of “8 Coolest Kids We Met in 2014,” a roundup of the most inspiring, courageous and innovative kids featured in the organization’s magazines this year.
“Our editors meet incredible students each year while developing stories for our magazines — these kids are a profound reminder of the amazing and inspiring things that the next generation of Americans are capable of achieving,” said Hugh Roome, the magazines’ publisher. “We hope that these ‘cool kids’ inspire others to pursue activities and act on issues that are most important to our society.”
Nicknamed “The Gardener,” Starr was recognized for her efforts to raise $10,000 — a million pennies — for Growing Food Forward, a local nonprofit that aims to curb hunger with local community gardens and education.
The campaign, which ran February through April, was a resounding success, raising more than $19,000. That’s a significant boost to the organization’s budget, allowing it to build more than 100 gardens from El Jebel to Parachute, producing 8,000 pounds of produce and teaching 250 children about horticulture in the process.
“We’re really grateful for Chandra’s efforts,” said Kim Doyle Wille of Growing Food Forward. “She’s made a huge impact on people’s lives who are hungry and who want to know how to grow food.”
It was a personal mission for Starr, who was diagnosed with early stage diabetes and struggled to find food that was both affordable and healthy.
Chandra and her mom, Kim Walker, were homeless for a brief time five years ago, living in a tent outside Glenwood Springs. They would ride their bicycles into town to visit a soup kitchen and collect canned and boxed food at Lift-Up.
Walker told the Aspen Times earlier this year that she researched the causes of diabetes and found that diet was a major culprit. The Lift-Up food was vital for them in their situation, but it was processed rather than fresh, she said, and their diet wasn’t great before they ended up homeless for a month.
Once they had a home, they made sure to include fresh vegetables, fruits and greens in their diets.
Chandra now has a garden of her own, and has learned to enjoy a lot of foods most teenagers avoid.
“I didn’t used to like a lot of vegetables,” Starr said. “Now I like a lot more of them.”
She didn’t expect the accolades from her pennies project, nor the media coverage that included an NBC News interview.
“She didn’t do it for the attention,” said her mother, Kimberly Starr Walker.
Still, the awareness could come in handy for future endeavors. Although she’d ultimately like to be an author or a veterinarian, Starr also intends to keep fundraising for good causes, and is contemplating a potential second annual million penny project. She’ll be able to use the computer Growing Food Forward got her to get the word out on social media, and hopes to see additional support from her classmates and community.
“Now that she’s done it, people are going, ‘she’s for real; she’s motivated; I want to do this too,” Walker said.
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