At No Kid Hungry Texas, we believe all children have dreams of greatness for their futures. That’s why we work to make sure every kid gets the food they need to grow up healthy, happy and strong.
As you may know, the leadership of Black community members and organizers like the Black Panther Party is what inspired programs like the National School Breakfast Program, an essential part of the fight against childhood hunger in the United States.
Today, Black leaders across the state continue to identify ways to support the children and families in their community by finding innovative ways to meet their needs and encourage the next generation of leaders.
As we celebrate Black History Month, we are highlighting Black leaders in our communities who have gone above and beyond to ensure that every child is well nourished on their way to greatness. We are proud to support these organizations to get the funding and support they need to feed kids.
Tonia Granger, Executive Director of FJV Foundation in DeSoto, Texas
Tonia Granger is the Executive Director of the Family Joint Venture Foundation (FJV Foundation), a community-based nonprofit organization that provides meal assistance to families as well as afterschool and summer meals to kids in DeSoto and Corsicana. Tonia is truly a selfless leader who works to ensure that the folks in her community have what they need to thrive.
For Granger, her family inspired her to live a life of service, “We all came together to ensure we ate and that we helped each other if someone was having a hard time.” And now, she views the community at large as her family, “I believe that everyone should have something to eat and it’s hard – especially with the pandemic. Even if I don’t know someone personally in my community, they are family to me, and everyone should be able to eat because that’s what brings people together.”
When asked about her hopes for her community she said “I hope that they continue the work that I do. You have to lead by example… people like me who are present in the community are basically showing others how they in turn can be an advocate for their community as well.”
Granger shared that she will be celebrating Black History Month by acknowledging local heroes making a difference—her celebrations will not be limited to the month of February. Tonia explains that “Black History isn’t just words on a piece of paper. I am the expression of Black history and together we make up one complete culture.”
Anna Powell, Executive Director of Purple Hearts Inc. in Fort Worth, Texas
Anna Powell is the Executive Director of Purple Hearts Inc., a community based nonprofit organization that provides healthy and nutritious meals to children and families in Fort Worth, Granbury and Venus. Anna founded Purple Hearts, Inc. in 2011 while working with home health agencies and realizing that the senior citizens in her community were experiencing food insecurity and needed additional support.
Today, Powell works with kids, families and senior citizens who may be living with hunger. Her work engages the community at large to meet their needs. Recently, Anna expanded her weekend lunch box program to meet the needs of more kids in the Fort Worth area, ensuring that kids continue to receive nourishment on the weekends.
Anna understands the power of community as the small town in Southeast Texas she grew up in shaped her to be the leader and civil servant she is today.
“If I’m doing a big project and need volunteers, I go back to the people I serve and let them know I need help. During the pandemic when families needed food or got laid off, we brought in big trucks of food to feed all families, and everyone was welcome. Everyone pitched in to help each other,” said Powell.
Betti Wiggins, Nutrition Services Officer at Houston Independent School District in Houston, Texas
Betti Wiggins is the Nutrition Services Officer at Houston Independent School District where she has worked for almost five years. She is responsible for managing and implementing all the districts’ school nutrition programs that serve 200,000 nutrition meals to students at over 280 campuses every day. Wiggins takes pride in her work and shared that “Every day that I can get up and do the things that I love to do and not necessarily having them be easy but having them be worth fighting for.”
Wiggins grew up on a farm in Belleville, Michigan, where she and her family grew food for themselves and their community. Betti remembers that her mother always told her, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” She added that, “There was always a sense of growing, producing, and then sharing our food.”
Betti’s experience of living and growing food on the farm inspired her to live a life of service by connecting people to food. For Betti, food not only provides a sense of nourishment, but it is also an opportunity to share warmth, history, and culture. She also understands that folks can come together, despite their differences, if they have the shared value of helping people in their community. Betti stated, “I want people to know that I am a willing participant and I understand that if we have community values, we can share a lot and help one another.”
Betti continually innovates to ensure that the families at Houston ISD have the food and the services they need. In November 2020, she teamed up with No Kid Hungry to provide holiday turkeys to 5,000 families in the district! When asked what makes her proud of the Black community she said “I am proud of how resilient we have been in the face of so many trials and tribulations… I celebrate my Blackness because it also gave me a sense of community and the possibility of what you could do. There is no adversity we can’t overcome if we’re given the opportunity.”
Beveylon Concha, Executive Director of Child Nutrition at Judson ISD in San Antonio, Texas
Beveylon Concha has worked in child nutrition for over 10 years and currently serves as the Executive Director of Child Nutrition at Judson ISD in Converse, Texas. In her work, she leads an incredible team of child nutrition experts to feed and nourish over 23,000 students across 31 campuses every day.
Beveylon was inspired to live a life of service by her parents – her two heroes! Growing up, Beveylon watched her parents take care of their community through food. “…People are our community and our way to show that we loved someone was to feed them… Anytime a person had a hardship, you would take them something grown in your garden or something you had canned. That gave a sense of community and still inspires me to continue that tradition today.”
Beveylon took the reins of the child nutrition program at Judson ISD immediately before school pandemic closures in 2020. Her knowledge and leadership led the district to quickly pivot to curbside during the start of the pandemic. And later, as schools began to transition to in-person learning, Beveylon implemented new and innovative programs such as second chance breakfast to ensure as many kids as possible had access to breakfast.
Food is definitely a love language for Beveylon and her passion for feeding others continues to shine in her work, “Food is comfort. We always feed people to celebrate, to appreciate, to nourish, to lend a hand, to teach, or simply to have a good time. I think food brings people together regardless of what type it is. Sharing food helps us learn about one another.”
No Kid Hungry Texas wants to thank each of these hunger heroes for their service in combatting child hunger. We hope you will continue to celebrate Black History Month by thanking and recognizing Black leaders in your community and continuing your own learning to gain a deeper understanding how to be an ally to communities of color and those who experience economic marginalization.