MEMPHIS, Tenn. — More than half of the children live in poverty in the 38128 zip code of Raleigh, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
With families starving and living in a food desert community, the non-profit 'For The Kingdom' saw an opportunity to pivot and fill a void by filling bellies through its "Feed the Block" initiative.
Nestled back off of Raleigh Millington Rd., For The Kingdom has long served kids in the area as a Christ-led camp. And although children camps slowed to a crawl there during the pandemic, the kitchen has never been busier.
“Over time I think God was preparing us for this shift into a real need," Executive Director Torrey Bates said.
Each week day, For The Kingdom staff and volunteers make and deliver 600 meals, at times nearly a thousand, for hungry kids and families in Raleigh.
“Of the 18,000 young people, 18 and under, the census says 54.2% of them are living below or at the poverty line," Bates said. “There are a lot of people starving and are too proud to say it.”
Rather than just make meals and provide them during a pick-up opportunity, For The Kingdom takes hot meals directly to the doors of apartments, homes, in-home daycare services, and senior centers.
“We get to some houses and kids will be dancing in the doorways before you even get there," Bates said. "They’re just excited to see you pull up.”
Bates said, for them, it's not just about giving out the food.
“For us, its excellence," he said. "Each day our menu is different."
They ensure people feel the love poured into every meal. Even if it's a meal that's made hundreds of times over again in a single day.
“We actually put pride in our food," For The Kingdom Chef Kearrow Gibbs said. "When I first got here, they said, 'We don’t cook cafeteria food.' And I said, 'I don’t cook cafeteria food so we’re on the same page.'”
Gibbs is one of three head chefs dishing out new meals and menus each day. She joined the team in September as they've grown during the pandemic.
"We get tears in our eyes when we see people’s reactions," she said. "I just want people to know that we care and we pray for them."
Because of their boots on the ground approach, they've been able to reach people who are otherwise overlooked.
"You go into some tough spaces where you go to doors, knock on doors and the door cracks open and you see like a sea of pallets on the floor where there's 11, 12 children living in one home," Bates said.
Bates said it has taken consistency to create a pathway to connection to those in the community that need it the most.
“It’s hard work, I’ll be honest, but we are grateful for that three-part container to finally allowing us to build some relationships that camping alone has never allowed us," he said.
While they're already serving hundreds of meals a day, very soon they'll be launching a community app to expand their footprint with the goal of feeding 1,800 children a day.
Another project in the works for "Feed the Block" is the Exodus Marketplace which will be a free-standing marketplace, juice bar and tech hub. It'll be made out of shipping containers and will provide Raleigh residents with food options, without the inflated prices that are customary in food deserts.