One Child at a Time

One Child at a Time
January 08
00:00 2015
(Above: The Wake Forest University Track team gives out bags to children in Lakeside Villas)

H.O.P.E. on mission to help end hunger in Winston-Salem

Ben and Marty Tennille are on a mission to feed every child in the city who is hungry.

Ben, a retired judge and his wife, a retired pediatrician, created H.O.P.E. (Helping Our People Eat) of Winston-Salem after feeling like they needed to do more than simply participate in their church’s Backpack childhood feeding program.

After some research, they pinpointed the city’s food deserts – places where fresh fruits and vegetables are not easily accessible or affordable.  They decided the best way to deliver fresh food to those places was with a mobile food truck. They purchased one and began doing just that. On their first run in 2013, they delivered 100 meals.

The agency gets its food from the Second Harvest Food Bank and business partners like Vernon’s Fresh Produce, PET Diary and US Foods. Lunches are bagged and packed on Saturdays. On Sundays, the couple power up the brightly-colored truck to deliver meals, making stops at 16 sites, mostly low-income housing complexes. Most weeks, nearly 800 children receive meals. H.O.P.E. feeds anyone 18 or younger. Meals include a turkey and cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread, a piece of fresh fruit or yogurt, cake brownies made from black beans, and milk or bottled water. They are required to eat the meals at the churches oand rec centers where H.O.P.E. distributes them.

“We have children here that we know are hungry. Statistics here in Forsyth County says that 40,000 children are hungry. I know that from my years of being a pediatrician in town. I took care of the children that are in these communities,” Marty Tennille said.

The agency gives adults bags of fresh produce and nutrition information.

“We have so many young moms that are not familiar with fresh vegetables and how to fix them,” Marty said. “We are making a difference in the eating habits for the families by giving out these bags.”

Anne Griffin, a board member and H.O.P.E. volunteer, said the term food desert is apt. In the areas the agency serves, many are not even familiar with some kinds of fresh produce.

“One of the mom’s picked up a zucchini and said, ‘What is it?’ We are educating them on different foods,” she said. “One little boy had never seen blueberries before. Now that he has found them, he eats them by the handfuls.”

Griffin said it helps that many of H.O.P.E.’s volunteers are college students from Wake Forest University, Salem College and Winston-Salem State University. The students talk to and play games with the kids before and after they eat their bag lunches.

“They just have a great time,” said Griffin.

Tennille said the nutrient-packed Sunday meals propel the kids when they hit the classroom Monday morning.

“If they don’t get food it’s impossible for them to learn on Monday,” she said. “Often it’s Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday before they’ve gotten enough food at school that they are ready to learn. That was one of the things we wanted to change.”

Since 2013 the agency has grown to include new technology and cooking classes. A mobile app that links all food service providers, including pantries and churches, where residents can get food can be downloaded at the agency’s website, Cooking classes are held at Cleveland Avenue Homes in conjunction with the Junior League.

Tennille said H.O.P.E. is looking to expand its efforts.

“By the end of next year, we hope to double the number of lunches that we’re serving, increase the amount of fresh produce that we are taking out into the neighborhood and have more cold storage,” she said. “What we do isn’t charity, but community.”

To volunteer or donate, visit the website or call 336-703-5262.

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Chanel Davis

Chanel Davis

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