Friendly Face: East Boston Community Soup Kitchen Founder’s Smile to Grace the Front of Lay’s Potato Chip Bags

While shoppers’ smiles are currently hidden behind their masks, they’ll soon spot plenty of friendly faces in the snack aisle thanks to Lay’s, which is converting millions of potato chip bags to feature the real smiles of 30 “ordinary” people doing extraordinary things in their communities. 

One of those smiles will be East Boston Community Soup Kitchen founder and director Sandra Nijjar. 

East Boston Community Soup Kitchen founder Sandra Nijjar’s smile will be featured on the front of Lay’s Potato Chip bags as part of the company’s Everyday Smiler contest.

Nijjar was one of thirty winners selected to be featured on the front of Lay’s potato chip bags for doing good deeds and spreading joy in their local communities. 

“Sandra knows that a soup kitchen provides more than just food,” said Sadira Furlow, vice president of marketing, Frito-Lay North America in a statement. “Through her organization, the East Boston Community Soup Kitchen, she provides a safe, welcoming space that serves 275 meals every Tuesday. During a time when joy is needed more than ever, the new Lay’s bags continue the brand’s mission to inspire even more smiles in 2020, with up to $1 million in proceeds benefiting Operation Smile.”

The Lay’s Smiles packaging and brand’s digital media channels will also spotlight the unique stories of Nijjar and the 29 “Everyday Smilers” whose impact includes helping the homeless, veterans, youth, elderly and more – in hopes that their inspiring work will bring smiles to the faces of people across the country. 

However, due to COVID the in-person photo shoot for Nijjar and others was cancelled so Lay’s had to get more creative and use the latest technology for the potato chip bag designs. Nijjar, using her phone, sent an image to Lay’s designers who turned the portrait into the new bag design. 

“Having poured through thousands of nominations and already being personally committed to these Smiles ourselves, particularly now when people are looking for more reasons to smile than ever before, we knew we couldn’t let a cancelled photoshoot keep Lay’s from sharing these inspiring stories with the world,” said Furlow. “Across stores and within households, Lay’s has the power to reach millions of Americans every day. We already know that what’s inside the bag brings joy, but turning the Lay’s bag into a canvas to multiply that happiness factor is what makes the Smiles program so special.” 

Last year, more than 71,000 people scanned the Lay’s Smiles QR codes to hear the unique stories behind each “Everyday Smiler” and 2020 offers even more inspiration from around the country.  

“The Smile with Lay’s program reflects the true power of how a smile can change the world, beginning with the one-on-one interaction you may have with a stranger to the life-changing surgeries and resources Operation Smile is able to provide thanks to our committed staff, generous donors, medical volunteers and longtime partners like Lay’s,” said Kristie Magee Porcaro, Chief Strategy Officer & Partnerships Operation Smile. 

The Lay’s Smiles bags are available nationwide while supplies last.

The East Boston Community Soup Kitchen started as an idea and a way to address what Nijjar saw as a growing problem in East Boston. Nijjar was seeing an ever-increasing number of homeless in and around Maverick and Central Squares. So four years ago Nijjar recruited Pastor Britta Carlson, John Ribeiro, Jr, Lydia Edwards and Baljinder Nijjar to establish the neighborhood’s first ever soup kitchen.

Now four years later, the East Boston Community Soup Kitchen in the basement of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church on Paris Street is going strong and feeding over 275 families in need  every Tuesday that are homeless or just in need of a hot meal.

Nijjar works with local businesses and restaurants to secure donations, recruits volunteers to help her in the kitchen and handles much of the cleaning. She gets to know all of her clients on a personal level and frequently visits guests in rehabilitation facilities and accompanies them to court appearances.

Last year, Nijjar was selected as one of this year’s Myra Kraft Community MVP Award winners for her volunteer efforts at East Boston Community Soup Kitchen. The Kraft Family provided Nijjar with a $10,000 grant at Gillette Stadium last summer to help further the Soup Kitchen’s reach. 

In addition to the meals, Nijjar and the Soup Kitchen provides blood pressure checks, immunization clinics, donated clothing, free haircuts and assistance with housing applications. She epitomizes kindness and patience while providing invaluable support to those in need.

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