Senior Lianna Fertig Uses Her Small Business to Spread Sandwiches and Hope
Applied Communication major’s EntICING Cakes food truck provides ‘Free Lunch Fridays’ to area children in need.
As a young girl, the pink slip Lianna Fertig held tightly in her small hands guaranteed her a free lunch at school. Today, the pink truck she drives carries that same promise to kids in the inner-city neighborhood where she grew up: Free Lunch Fridays.
But Fertig offers more than sandwiches to the children at Akron’s Robinson Academy and school districts across Summit and Stark counties. “We want families to know they are thought of, that we do care about them during these uncertain times,” said the senior Applied Communication major at Kent State University at Stark. “We share laughs, we share hope for better days.”
Preparing ready-to-eat lunches from her food truck, EntICING Cakes, was a way for Fertig to help local communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Many parents have been asked to work remotely, which means new challenges, such as the extra time and cost to handle lunch that is typically offered by the schools,” she said. “So, every Friday, I drive my truck around neighborhoods in need and hand out free lunches to kids.”
She plans to continue the service this summer, a time when childhood hunger is often at its highest.
Fertig started the nonprofit, Free Lunch Fridays, with her friend, Ahlam “Lam” Abbas, CEO of the Dirty Lamb, a local company specializing in high performance skin care.
“I interned with Lam, and we are great friends. Plus, we have some time on our hands,” explained Fertig. “Due to coronavirus, a lot of weddings and corporate events that EntICING Cakes would typically bake for have been cancelled, so it made sense to do something creative while also giving back.”
On a typical week, Fertig and Abbas make 100 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and assemble other lunch offerings, based on donations. All lunches are given away; cupcakes are offered for sale. Donations are being accepted for Free Lunch Fridays. For more information, visit www.freelunchfridays.com.
Fertig credited one of her professors, Lisa Waite, senior lecturer of Communication Studies, for inspiring her to strive for more.
“She always tells us that we have the responsibility to do more, not less,” Fertig said.
Fertig clings to that.
“It’s super humbling to see children without shoes as they walk up to our big, pink truck and pick up lunches for all of their brothers and sisters,” she said. “You just know you’re doing something that goes beyond offering a free lunch, it’s taking care of children, of families, who may feel hopeless during this time.”
For Fertig, it’s also full circle. From walking Robinson Academy’s halls to driving her pink truck around the city block she used to call home, the hands that now reach out to her for help are so familiar to her own. Once small, held open wide and ready to receive, Fertig’s hands are now ready to give – even if just for one Free Lunch Friday – hope.