Featured Volunteer: Alana

U-TOUCH is changing lives by building connections across the globe.  This is how one high school student used those connections to make a lasting difference in the lives of kids just like her.


Alana Olson is a sophomore at Scripps Ranch High School in San Diego.  She loves her AP European History class and English, running cross-country, and playing piano which she’s been studying for six years.  She is also in the Creative Minds Club – no surprise—and she’s a passionate cook.

The fact is Alana has been passionate about cooking most of her life.

She has always loved watching her mom cook all kinds of wonderful international foods and she watches Food Network “religiously.”

“I first began to be interested in nutrition because I was interested in how much the two seemingly very different fields of cooking and health care…are so intimately connected and how they dramatically affect our day-to-day lives.”

Alana became a full vegetarian about three years ago and says she has not missed meat one bit since.

“Though I have no intentions of trying to “convert” people into vegetarians–I think it is a very personal decision–I like people to know the reasoning behind my decision. I became a vegetarian because I feel (that) since I am so fortunate to have access to such an abundance of food, there is no need to kill an animal for it. There are so many sources of vegetarian protein out there that are much better for the environment, more economical, better for your overall health, and most importantly, do not require the killing of an animal.”

She even has a blog, where she shares vegetarian adaptations of signature international dishes, a la Alana. It includes fun tips and tricks, a guide for the rookie vegetarian, even a featured ingredient of the week!

Alana also is deeply committed to sharing her blessings, feeling a responsibility to give back to those in need. 

“…I have had the good fortune to be born into a family that loves to travel, I have been able to experience cultures from all over the world and realize how intimately connected we all are as people of this earth… Learning about all of the horrendous atrocities that have occurred in northern Uganda in the last few decades made me realize that these people have lost everything–their homes, their families, and their pride–yet somehow continue to show resilience and joy. This is beyond admirable to me and makes me want to improve their lives in any way I can.”

Last year, Alana figured out how she could combine her passion for food and nutrition with helping others. Her project, Cents for Seeds, has raised money in her local San Diego community, to help students at Kitgum High School in Kitgum, Uganda, plant a garden to product good, nutritious food to eat. Alana specifically wanted to work with Ugandan high school students because she “thought it would be cool to interact with kids our age living in a completely different world.”


Planting Seeds at Kitgum High School - Cents for Seeds

But growing healthy food was not the only goal.  Alana prepared educational PowerPoints to teach students about nutrition. She hoped they would then introduce their new ideas about nutrition to their families and friends. In fact, Alana has plans to introduce the program at other schools, including elementary schools. Fundraising for that is already underway!

The Kitgum High School garden in is ‘producing’ results, not only in the diets of young Ugandans, but in the lives of students here who are learning about some of the most pressing issues of our planet in a first hand way.  It is just one of the ways that U-TOUCH is changing lives. 

 And Alana is just beginning.

“In the next few years, I would love to visit (our) garden in Uganda. I want to see the progress, meet all of the wonderful people who have helped me along the way and the kids whom the garden will benefit.”

She also wants to continue to work through U-TOUCH, and maybe get involved with new causes too.

“I would love to do a project benefiting the environment and animals, or maybe something to empower women in 3rd world countries and help them get the education and fair treatment they deserve. At this point, all I know is this project is only the beginning and I can’t wait to see its progress and do further work with U-TOUCH.”


Donate to help Alana expand the Cents for Seeds projects to more schools in Uganda


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