NEST4US is a teen-led 501(c)3 non-profit that provides volunteer solutions to the community to make the world better through kindness!

Photo of Esha & Shreyaa Venkat
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NEST4US Social Media Handles: Instagram: Facebook: Twitter: Shreyaa Venkat LinkedIn: Esha Venkat LinkedIn: Website:

Date You Started Your Project Started


Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Hunger is a problem that most often affects low-income families. Most people don't realize how much food they throw away every day, from uneaten leftovers to spoiled produce. About 95 percent of the food we discard ends up in landfills or combustion facilities. Also, there is 1.5 times the amount of food needed to feed everyone on the planet, it's just a matter of distribution. This ignited our passion to combat food waste and feed the planet.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

There were a couple key issues we noticed in the community that we wanted to tackle— food insecurity, lack of volunteering with a passion, & inclusion. When we started volunteering, we noticed so many homeless people who didn’t have access to food. We also noticed that during lunch, so much food goes to waste every day. So, homeless people & food waste. We put two & two together and decided that our organization should focus on reducing food waste & feeding the hungry! The other issue we wanted to overcome is the lack of motivation to volunteer with a passion. Most people do community service solely for hours or some other incentive, which we believe defeats the purpose. That’s why we provide a diverse variety of programs that allow people of all different backgrounds to find a service activity that interests them where they can help the homeless and others in need. Through social media platforms, we serve as advocates for positive change in the community and promote diversity and inclusion by welcoming people of all backgrounds to our volunteer family!

3. Using STEM as a force of good: Please specify how are you using STEM to solve for an environmental challenge you are passionate about.

NEST Nurtures is our food redistribution program with a mission to increase awareness and action around food waste reduction, and rescue & redistribute safe edible foods to those in need. To promote and support our mission, we have designed an app called Nestables, which is intended for people who have excess food to donate, local shelters seeking food sponsors, and volunteers looking for service opportunities. Seeing the grateful faces of those we serve inspires us to continue giving back. We want the people in our community to feel the same inspiration. Just 30 seconds of kindness is all it takes!

4. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

One day when we were driving back after serving, we approached a traffic light where a man was holding a sign— HUNGRY NEED FOOD. Instinctively, we took out the food we had in case we got hungry after & called to the man. He gasped in joy as we placed the food into his rugged hands. We knew he’d been through a lot & needed this food more than we did. As if reading our thoughts, he said, “Thank you for being kind enough to give me food, as I haven’t eaten anything in days. God bless you.” He nodded graciously & ran back over to his crate, stuffing his new treasure into a simple backpack. This is why we do what we do. It only takes 30 seconds to change someone’s entire day or even life, for the better. Our motto is, if you can’t feed a hundred, then just feed one. Providing service opportunities, maintaining an inclusive attitude, & passionately serving with generosity. That’s who we are!

5. Video (Keep it simple, a video made on a hand-held phone is great): Please upload a 1-minute video to YouTube that answers the following “I am stepping up to be a Changemaker because...”

6. Please highlight the key activities you have carried out to bring your project to life.

We have established five core programs that make up NEST4US as a whole. We impact our community through NEST Nurtures (Food Redistribution Program), NEST Tutors (Free Tutoring Program), NEST Kares (Blessing Bag Program), NEST Buddies (Birthday-In-A-Box Program), & NEST Inspires (Leadership Program). Driven by a passion for service & motivation from the happy faces we serve, we inspire our community to spread kindness and give back with passion rather than solely for hours or other incentives.

7. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

As a teen-led organization, we inspire other youth to be more engaged & motivated to give back. Through our service projects, we emphasize the qualities necessary for success like leadership, teamwork and help people build better connections. Service provides an altruistic identity for our volunteers & gives them social awareness on how they can help those in need. Many may not know about the issues they look to solve before participating in our programs, but once they get involved, they truly see what a difference they make in the lives they touch.

8. Impact: In the last three months, please detail the impact your project has made?

In 4 years, NEST4US has grown to an impactful organization with 850+ volunteers. Through NEST Nurtures, we have served 25,000+ homeless people & low-income families. We sponsor & serve meals at over 23 shelters & food banks. In the community, we have provided volunteers for 250+ events. We have partnerships with Panera Bread, Starbucks & local schools through which we’ve rescued over 20,000 lbs. of food. We’ve impacted kids in 21+ schools through NEST Tutors. Through NEST Kares, we’ve donated school supplies for at-risk kids, assembled 12,000+ blessing bags for the less fortunate, donated 8,000+ books to underprivileged kids, & created 10,000+ notes of kindness. NEST Buddies is a Birthday-in-a-Box program that serves underprivileged kids. NEST Inspires, is a program with a mission to Network, Empower, Succeed, & Transform! In 2019, we contributed $188,375 in value of volunteer hours.

9. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

Service has allowed us to see the world through different lenses, where people less fortunate become the focus. We have gained experience in serving various disadvantaged communities & have been exposed to the most pressing issues facing modern society. Currently, we partner with Starbucks & Panera Bread. As we continue to expand, we hope to partner with major grocery chains including Giant, Wegmans, Safeway, and more to further reduce the negative ecological impact of food waste & turn what is considered useless to these companies into consistent meals for the hungry. Through partnerships with major businesses, we will broaden our impact on the less fortunate, & touch more lives and hearts on a larger, global scale.

10. Please share how you have influenced other young people to get involved in your project and/or care about environmental sustainability.

We’re passionately concerned about the environment & about encouraging youth to take responsibility for it. Driven by a passion for service & motivation from the happy faces of the people we serve, we’ve inspired kids as young as four years old to spread kindness & passionately give back. Because we are youth leaders, other young people are more inclined to connect with us and are inspired to be part of the ripple of service & kindness we strive to create & spread.

11. Please share ideas of how you can partner with other changemakers to make a difference?

We believe strongly in the power of collaboration & are continually forging partnerships with other nonprofits to find new & innovative ways to help those in need. By partnering with other changemakers, we can connect our volunteer forces to ultimately create a global impact. Many of the pressing issues we strive to tackle are unfortunately present worldwide. However, this means we can come together with other difference makers to devise innovative solutions for these pressing global issues.

12. How would you engage others who have never heard about your project to get their buy-in?

Through various marketing strategies, we focus on increasing our visibility in the community. We believe it’s important to support our community in any way possible, & especially now with social media, to project positive messages to our peers. It doesn’t matter how big or small your contribution is; it just matters that you do something to help. We strive to utilize our social media to spread the message of kindness & giving back. We are just youth. If we can make a difference, anyone can.

13. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations between $1k-$5k

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media
  • Participated in previous Ashoka challenges
  • Ashoka page or contact
  • Email

Evaluation results

11 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

Yes, absolutely! - 36.4%

Probably - 9.1%

Maybe - 45.5%

Probably not - 9.1%

No - 0%

2. CONNECTION to Environmental Sustainability

5 - Absolutely! It is totally clear that the solution is contributing directly to environmental sustainability and/or addressing climate change - 45.5%

4 — Yes, it establishes a connection to environment/ climate change but could be stronger - 9.1%

3 — Somewhat, the entry speaks to this environmental sustainability, but the direct impact is not well established - 27.3%

2 — Not really, the connection to environment/ climate is very weak - 18.2%

1 — No. The entry does not have a reference the solution’s impact on environment and/or climate change - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%

3. Is this entry CREATIVE?

5 - Yes, absolutely! - 36.4%

4 - Yes, I think so - 9.1%

3 - Maybe - 36.4%

2 - Probably not. - 18.2%

1 - No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

4. Does this entry demonstrate a COMMITMENT to changemaking?

5 - Yes, absolutely! - 100%

4 - Yes, I think so - 50%

3 - Maybe - 33.3%

2 - Probably not - 0%

1 - No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Does this entry value CHANGEMAKING through collaboration with other stakeholders in its approach?

5 - Yes, absolutely! - 45.5%

4 - Yes, I think so - 45.5%

3 - Maybe - 9.1%

2 - Probably not - 0%

1 - No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

6. Is this entry VIABLE financially and operationally?

5 -Yes, absolutely! - 28.6%

4- Yes, I think so - 28.6%

3- Maybe - 42.9%

2- Probably not - 0%

1- No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

7. FEEDBACK: What are the strengths of this project?

CONNECTION: You have a great understanding and personal connection to the problem - 60%

CREATIVITY: You have researched existing solutions, and have developed unique, thoughtful new solutions to aid environmental sustainability/combat climate change - 40%

COMMITMENT: You have a thoughtful plan for growing your business, and your founding team has a strong combination of leadership and knowledge-based skills - 100%

CHANGEMAKER QUALITY: You value thinking around how to activate other changemakers and empower them to care about your cause. You also have a clearly defined plan on how to collaborate across multiple stakeholders - 20%

IMPACT MEASUREMENT: You use specific numbers and evidence to describe what your project has achieved so far (or plan to achieve in the future) and you have a plan for measuring impact - 80%

VIABLITY: You have given a great deal of thought to not just the idea itself but how to make it work from a financial perspective in the present and future - 60%

Other option - 0%

8. FEEDBACK: What are some areas for improvement for this project?

CONNECTION: Why you care about the environment/ climate was unclear – It would be great to elaborate on what this solution means to you, personally and how it affects you and/or your community. - 75%

CREATIVITY: Be more specific in your description of the research you have done into the past solutions to this problem and focus on how your solution is unique and innovative - 100%

COMMITMENT: Your plan for growing the organization can benefit from more specifics. How can you round out the various skills of your current leadership team to make the project a long-term success? - 25%

CHANGEMAKER QUALITY: Try to provide more insights into how you are activating changemakers and empowering them to innovate through your product or programming. How will they care about environment/climate if they currently do not? Think about how to create value for all stakeholders, not just immediate beneficiaries - 50%

IMPACT MEASUREMENT: Provide specific instances of your social impact and how you plan to measure impact – it may be helpful to describe the beneficiaries, products and programming, and provide evidence of (or plan for) how to measure impact - 25%

VIABILITY: Make sure you have provided descriptive information about your financial sustainability plan. Where do the funds come from now and do you have a concrete plan for future sustainability? - 25%

Nothing – I thought everything was great! - 50%

Other option - 25%


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Photo of Anu Raghunathan

Amazing job Team NEST4US for all your efforts and dedication to serve our community ❤️ Keep up your great work!!!

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