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Maitreyi Ramakrishnan is the first to admit she’s an adventurous eater — but not so much an accomplished chef.
The Never Have I Ever star, 19, who has teamed up with MadeGood for the company’s Un-Wreck the Future campaign, spoke to PEOPLE about her favorite foods, the wackiest dish she’s ever tried and her passion for fighting food insecurity.
When it comes to one of the most memorable, outlandish eats she’s ever had, Ramakrishnan says she was adventurous enough to try a “weird combination” of popcorn chicken twirled with cotton candy.
“It was like, sort of weird, but it was good,” she says. “It was like sweet and sour chicken.”
The actress admits that she didn’t have as much luck when it came to crafting her own creative meal, a blueberry and cabbage sandwich she concocted when she was seven years old.
“It was bad,” she tells PEOPLE, but adds, “It didn’t go to waste! My dad ate it.”
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While she’s lucky enough to have a family full of cooks — including a culinarily inclined brother, a mom who makes “really good stir-frys” and a grandma who “cooks a lot of rice and curry” — Ramakrishnan knows she more fortunate than the millions who struggle with food insecurity across the country.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, 13.8 million of U.S. households were food insecure at some time during 2020.
“I don’t think people realize how big of a problem food insecurity is because most of us are privileged enough to not worry about where your next meal is gonna come from, or how to get your next meal,” she says.
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Which is in part why she’s chosen to pair up with MadeGood, Ramakrishnan tells PEOPLE. Adding that she was raised to “speak up for what I believe in,” the Netflix star explains, “When it comes to food insecurity, ever since I was a kid my mom would always tell me, ‘Make sure you eat everything because there’s kids out there that don’t get food.'”
While she admits “that’s a lot to put on a 4 [or] 5-year-old’s shoulders,” she agrees that her mom was right.
“It is true and it is something that has translated into who I am now because I’m all about making sure there’s no food waste and getting people food,” Ramakrishnan says. “I love buying food for my friends and buying food for people because there’s just such a sense of community around that. So it really saddens me, especially when I find out that kids aren’t able to have that.”
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Ramakrishnan is raising awareness of food insecurity issues under the new campaign, and Un-Wreck the Future is enlisting the help of other young activists to join her in the cause. She encourages kids across North America to head to the Un-Wreck the Future website, where they can submit a short video detailing their work to reduce food insecurity in their own community.
MadeGood will choose 12 young people in the US and 12 in Canada to join their Un-Wrecking Crew and fight food insecurity. The company has also pledged $125,000 in cash and donations to participants who share their commitment to ending food insecurity.
“It’s taking that step further towards solving an issue. It’s taking that step further beyond just educating yourself,” Ramakrishnan says of the campaign. “You’re actually taking action and trying to do good.”
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