Richmond 7-year-old sets up food stand for people in need

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Eagle Jayagoda, 7, of Richmond has been setting up a food table on Sundays to assist people facing hard times during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photos by Kathy Chouteau)

By Kathy Chouteau

Every Sunday since the COVID-19 shelter-in-place order began, a little Eagle has been flying about performing a simple act of kindness in Richmond. This Eagle is not the feathered kind—he’s 7-year-old Eagle Jayagoda, a resident of the North & East neighborhood.

On Sundays from about 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Eagle sets out a table stocked with various food items for people facing hard times during the pandemic. It’s located under a tree on 34th St. between Barrett Ave. and Roosevelt Ave. in Richmond. On a recent visit, his so-called “Little Free Food Table,”—inspired, in part, by the Little Free Libraries—featured multiple cans of different vegetables, beverages, soup, pasta and more for the taking.

A sign on the table created by Eagle and decorated with a giant red heart read: “Take what you need.” A sweet, simple statement packed with oceans of kindness and generosity.

It all started when the pandemic first struck, causing Eagle’s family—which originally hails from Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon)—to brainstorm on ways to help people. The Jayagodas had a history of working together on charitable projects with their Sri Lankan community, as well as on their own. When the family heard how Little Free Libraries were being transformed into food pantries, Eagle quickly ‘flew’ with his idea of creating a Little Free Food Table.

“Eagle’s the one who came up with the idea of doing the table,” said his mother, Achala Jayagoda. It was his idea. He drew signs, colored and wrote it down.”

The family donated food from their own kitchen, and the idea caught on, with additional food donations coming in from neighbors, random donors and members of the Sri Lankan community. “There’s lots of positive vibes,” said Achala with gratitude about the many donations and kind words they’ve received.

It seems the feeling of gratitude is reciprocal. One morning when the family stepped outside their home, someone had written “thank you” with a big heart in chalk on the sidewalk.

When asked about why he wanted to offer a free food table, Eagle, a second grader at St. John’s Catholic School in San Francisco said, “This food table is for everybody. Everybody gets hungry.”

And Eagle’s Little Free Food Table is definitely serving a need. His mom reports that people are regularly taking the table’s food offerings, which the family replenishes throughout the day on Sundays. When Sunday rolls around, Eagle’s table is placed outside his family’s home under the tree, weather permitting. Soon, the family plans to replace the table with a portable pantry that can hold more food.

“He is such as good boy and a blessing,” Achala said about her son. “He sees people taking things [from the table] and he’s really enjoying it…As parents, we really think it’s a great way to teach him about empathy and sharing things, even though we don’t have much. We [hope] he will become even more generous in the future.”

“As long as people expect it, we will keep trying to do this for the Richmond community,” she added.

Want to send Eagle and his parents your well-wishes? Email them at [email protected].