People & Places

Cedar Rapids girl donates food in lieu of birthday gifts

8-year-old collects 82 pounds for Linn Community Food Bank

Eight-year-old Falyn Svalstad (right) gets help from her brother Mac (second from right), 6, and mother Kristen (left) a
Eight-year-old Falyn Svalstad (right) gets help from her brother Mac (second from right), 6, and mother Kristen (left) and younger sister Vayda, 3, all of Marion, Iowa, as she delivers donated food to the Linn Community Food Bank at First Presbyterian Church in southeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Friday, March 31, 2017. For Falyn’s eighth birthday, she asked friends to bring food to donate instead of presents. Falyn donated over 80 pounds of food. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — When Falyn Svalstad celebrated her eighth birthday a few weeks ago, she didn’t ask for presents. Instead, the Cedar Rapids girl asked the four friends who attended the party for her March 11 birthday to bring non-perishable food items.

Falyn used $50 given to her by her parents, Kristen and Eric Svalstad, to purchase more groceries.

On Friday morning — a day off school for Falyn — she joined her mother and two siblings in delivering bags filled with jars of peanut butter, canned vegetables, and Millville brand Fruit Rounds, Crispy Oats and other boxes of cereal to the Linn Community Food Pantry.

The donation weighed in at 82 pounds of food, more than the 8-year-old weighs.

Food bank volunteers were on hand to congratulate and thank Falyn for her generosity.

“I really like to give people stuff instead of get it,” the youngster said.

Falyn’s inclination to donate was heightened when her grandparents gave her and her younger brother and sister $100 each to donate to a charity of their choice. Kristen Svalstad said she wasn’t surprised when her daughter elected to donate instead of receive gifts for her birthday.

Svalstad said Falyn has always had a generous nature.

“When it’s Mother’s Day or Father’s Day or one of our birthdays, she wants to decorate and make a cake. When I say, ‘What do you want for Christmas?’ she’ll say, ‘Eh, whatever.’ She gets excited more to give, which is unusual,” Svalstad said.

Falyn said her friends weren’t really surprised either when she asked them to donate to the food bank.

Cheryl Moe, a volunteer at the food bank, said she hopes Falyn’s actions start a trend for younger donors. Volunteers said she’s the youngest donor they know of to have given to the Linn Community Food Bank, which is located in the basement of First Presbyterian Church at 310 Fifth St. SE in Cedar Rapids.

“It is the best gift you can give — to feed hungry people,” Moe said.

The food bank serves about 50 people a day, said Richard Gray, another food bank volunteer. Last year, the food bank served about 15,000 Linn County residents.

Svalstad and Falyn said they may come back to volunteer.

“You saved some kids from having to go to bed hungry,” Gray told the young donor.

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The food bank accepts donations from 8:30 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, call the food bank at (319) 364-3543. Volunteers are typically on hand from 8:30 to 10 a.m. and 12:45 to 3:15 p.m. weekdays.

l Comments: (319) 368-8516; makayla.tendall@thegazette.com

Food they can use

The Linn Community Food Bank has a list of items officials say are most sought after. To learn more, go to linncommunityfoodbank.org:

Canned vegetables, fruit, pork & beans, soup, tuna, chicken

Creamy peanut butter

Instant mashed potatoes

Pasta and pasta sauce

Macaroni and cheese

Saltine crackers

Cereal

Corn muffin mix

Pancake mix

Toilet paper

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