Nine young people – most not old enough to drive – and one organization filled with preteens received high honors from Hormel Foods. Each one was recognized by the 10 Under 20 Food Heroes Awards program during the company’s first-ever Spirit Week, Sept. 14-18, 2020. In addition to their youth, the recipients share the dream of erasing hunger and creating a more livable planet.
“The work of these incredible young people is inspiring, and we are so moved by their original ideas – both grassroots and cutting edge – to aid the fight against hunger and food insecurity and to lift up their communities and help those in need,” said Jim Snee, chairman of the board, president and chief executive officer at Hormel Foods.
In addition to having a stage on which to tell their stories, all honorees received grants from the company to help them continue their work.
The 10 honorees, in alphabetical order, are:
We Cancerve Grace Callwood, 16
Grace Callwood turned a jolting cancer diagnosis at the age of 7 into a mission to help other children. In 2012, she started We Cancerve, a nonprofit organization that spreads happiness and fun to children in hospitals, foster care and homeless shelters in and around Aberdeen, Maryland. At the age of 10, she even created a summer day camp for homeless children. Today, Callwood is a healthy and inspiring young leader who guides an organization focused on helping vulnerable children – those experiencing homelessness or illness, and those in foster care. She runs We Cancerve with an all-youth board of advisors, bringing food, toys and literacy to thousands of vulnerable young people.
Food Pantry Sherrill Adam Fellows, 19
For his high school senior project, Adam Fellows was intent on collecting food for his local food pantry. But he soon discovered a stumbling block. The local food pantry had closed its doors, leaving some of the community’s most vulnerable without an important resource. Rather than hit the brakes on his initial plan, Fellows put it into high gear. He expanded his project and built a food pantry in Sherrill, New York, to serve members of his community.
Post Crashers Bradley Ferguson, Age 19
Nineteen-year-old Bradley Ferguson’s dedication to helping veterans was first evidenced by his renovation of American Legion Post 295, a project made possible by grants that he sought. The following year, when he witnessed the suicide of a U.S. military veteran, Ferguson expanded his service platform, hosting advocacy dinners to help veterans suffering from mental illness and homelessness. He formed Post Crashers, created a victory garden to serve as a source of food and cooked full-course meals to go along with the approximately 6,000 pounds of vegetables grown in the garden. To date, Ferguson and his team have provided about 2,000 meals for previously homeless veterans living in transitional housing. In addition, they have made approximately 13,000 lunches for homeless clients of the Atlantic City Rescue Mission. In 2017, Ferguson formed Mustangs Against Hunger, a high school food pantry that distributes thousands of pounds of nonperishable food to hundreds of families in need.
Lunches of Love Liam Hannon, 13
Liam Hannon lives down the street from Harvard University, which is fitting, given the fact that his compassion for others is something that can serve as a lesson to all. Merely a young boy, he opted out of summer camp to assemble lunches for homeless people in Cambridge. His Lunches of Love initiative has continued to grow. To date, he has given away thousands of meals. In addition, he travels throughout the United States to share his story, spreading goodwill and inspiring others to work for change.
Kiki’s Kindness Project Kiki Hardee, 6
At the wise old age of 5, Kiki Hardee heard that some of her classmates were unable to pay for their lunches. That didn’t sit well with this young change-maker. Out of empathy and compassion for her school friends, she created what is now known as Kiki’s Kindness Project. Hardee created a cocoa-and-cookies stand to raise money to pay off classmates’ school lunch debts. She also went beyond the walls of her own school and helped pay off the districtwide debt of $7,000.
ChefLucasFood Lucas Hobbs, 17
Lucas Hobbs faced his cancer diagnosis with courage and strength, and upon completion of his treatment, the Make-A-Wish Foundation offered him the opportunity to have a wish granted. Instead of the popular trip to Disney or tickets to a sporting event, Hobbs asked to partner with Minnesota food trucks so he could give back to his community and to other kids battling cancer. Stemming from his unusual wish is ChefLucasFood, a nonprofit organization founded in 2015 by the Hobbs family. Today, through food industry partnerships, the organization hosts a broad range of food-truck charitable events, benefiting service organizations and providing free meals to families battling pediatric cancer.
Project I Am Jahkil Jackson, 13
When Jahkil Jackson was 8 years old, he helped his aunt distribute food to homeless people in Chicago. Moved by the desire to do more, he created Project I Am to assist those in need. It quickly became his mission to build awareness of homelessness and to help members of this vulnerable population by offering them what he calls “blessing bags” – giveaway packets with wipes, socks, deodorant, hand sanitizer, granola bars, toothbrushes, toothpaste, bottled water and other essentials.
Pathway to the Plate King Middle School
King Middle School students are known to excel at many things, but perhaps the daily commitment of the collective student body to eliminating food waste is among the greatest of their achievements. Understanding the social, economic and environmental impacts of global food waste, they created a five-part waste separation system, including shared tables, compost guardians and plastic-bag reduction.
Box to Belly Challenge Elise Simokat, 13
Elise Simokat signed on to deliver holiday meals to students enrolled in the Backpack Buddy program, providing at-need students with food for weekends away from school. But as she wondered about longer breaks, she saw a need she wanted to address. Her goal in founding the Box to Belly Challenge was to expand food offerings in order to make sure every student would have warm meals during holiday breaks. After visiting about 25 area schools, Simokat was able to provide and deliver approximately 2,100 meals to students by raising money via social media platforms like Facebook. She also received a donation of 1,000 Hormel® Compleats® meals from Hormel Foods. The company has since donated more than 2,000 additional meals to her, while team members held a meal-packing event at a recent leadership meeting.
Me & the Bees Mikaila Ulmer, 15
Though she was only 4, Mikaila Ulmer was old enough to grasp the environmental importance of bees. So much so, she decided to take action by joining a local children’s-business competition. Her product, a family lemonade recipe sweetened with locally produced honey, is still alive and even thriving. Thanks to a deal on “Shark Tank,” over the past decade, Ulmer has sold more than 1 million bottles of Me & the Bees Lemonade across 1,000 stores in the United States, including Whole Foods and Macy’s. A portion of the sales go to organizations fighting to save the honeybee population.
10 Under 20 Food Heroes Ambassador
In addition to the 10 Under 20 Food Heroes, Hormel Foods named 19-year-old Joshua Williams its first 10 Under 20 Food Heroes Awards ambassador. Now a junior at NYU’s Stern School of Business, when Williams was just shy of 5 years old, he started Joshua’s Heart Foundation in Miami Beach, Florida. His mission has long been to put an end to poverty and food insecurity. Since 2005, Williams’ foundation has raised almost $2 million in financial support, distributed more than 3 million pounds of food, served more than 600,000 individuals, donated more than 200,000 toys, books and clothes, and recruited more than 60,000 young people to assist.
The 10 Under 20 Food Impact Awards ceremony was set to take place in March 2020 at the second annual Hormel Foods Small Change Big Impact Food Summit at Harvard University. The conference brings together leaders and experts from throughout the industry to foster forward-thinking ideas in order to create a better food system. It was postponed as a result of COVID-19, but the company hopes to see it held in 2021, with the 10 Under 20 Food Impact Awards having a prominent place. According to Snee, that’s as it should be.
“All of these young people remind us how we can benefit from young thinkers, philanthropists and foodies who are showing everyone that change can and is happening on a local, state, national and even international level,” he said.