Richmond boy launches 24-hour food pantry for birthday

Richmond boy launches 24-hour food pantry for birthday
Eagle poses with the Little Free Food Pantry he established in Richmond’s North & East neighborhood. (Photos courtesy of Eagle's Little Free Food Pantry)

By Kathy Chouteau

While most 8-year-old boys are focused on what they will get for their birthdays, Richmond’s Eagle Jayagoda is more concerned about what he can give.

Since the onset of the pandemic in March, Eagle has set up a so-called “Little Free Food Table” under a tree on 34th St. between Barrett Ave. and Roosevelt Ave. in Richmond’s North & East neighborhood. It’s been stocked with a wide variety of food items and was open on Sundays for anyone who may be facing hard times.

But now, this setup has changed…for the better.

Coinciding with Eagle’s recent 8th birthday—and supported by his parents, Achala and Sanath Jayagoda—he decided to expand his charitable services by retiring his table and unveiling his brand new “Little Free Food Pantry.” While Eagle’s table used to be only open Sundays, his pantry—which was built by a Sri Lankan family friend—holds even more food, is weather proof and is open 24 hours per day, seven days a week to anyone who needs to use it. The pantry can be found underneath the same old tree on 34th Street.

According to Achala, the Sri Lankan community, their North and East neighbors and many others have supported their effort by donating food and in other ways since Eagle first had the idea to put out his table. The family also raises money for the food in the Little Free Food Pantry by recycling bottles.

And people have taken notice. On a recent visit to Kaiser Richmond, Achala mentioned Eagle’s community efforts to his doctor, including the food truck his family arranged for first responders on Father’s Day in June. When Eagle left the pediatric clinic that day, he was cheered on by clapping doctors, nurses and other staff in recognition of his charitable efforts. As he passed by them, one doctor exclaimed, “Here’s our hero coming!” Another Kaiser doctor even stopped by the new food pantry to drop off some food.

Eagle, a third grader at St. John’s Catholic School in San Francisco, has seen word of his efforts spread beyond Richmond too. Since March, the Jayagoda family has received supportive messages from people around the world, including their home country of Sri Lanka.

“Sometimes kids get everything they want,” said Eagle’s mother, Achala, about her reasons for encouraging Eagle’s efforts. “Life is very uncertain and I want to him to understand that if people work hard, they get things…Whatever you have, even a little thing, just help.”

Eagle’s Little Free Food Pantry is available to anyone who needs it 24 hours a day, seven days a week under a tree on 34th St. between Barrett Ave. and Roosevelt Ave. in Richmond. Want to send Eagle and his parents your well-wishes? Email them at [email protected].