12-year-old North Carolina girl receives $20,000 grant to run her food pantry

L-R: Michael Hinson, Kenzie Hinson, Paige Hinson, Annetta Tirey, Sara Lilygren, and Derek Burleson (Photo: Tyson Foods)

GOLDSBORO, N.C. (WNCN) – A 12-year-old North Carolina girl, who founded a food pantry, received a grant from Tyson Foods on Saturday.

Mackenzie “Kenzie” Hinson was recognized by the company and the City of Goldsboro for operating the food pantry. She received a $20,000 grant and was named a “Meals that Matter Hero.”

Hinson organized the “Make A Difference Food Pantry” last year, serving about 30 people at a church fellowship hall. Now, she rents space and serve more than 1,200 families each month from three different counties.

Mackenzie, who has also garnered support from Food Lion, Panera Bread and CVS, said she was inspired after volunteering at other pantries and learning the statistics of kids that are starving.

So, she started the pantry.

“When I see the smiles on their faces, I forget everything if I’ve had a bad day,” Hinson said.

From L-R: Annetta Tirey, David Ham, Larry Morris, Kenzie Hinson, Paige Hinson, and Michael Hinson  (Photo: Tyson Foods)
From L-R: Annetta Tirey, David Ham, Larry Morris, Kenzie Hinson, Paige Hinson, and Michael Hinson (Photo: Tyson Foods)

The pantry is state certified. Hinson is the recipient of many service awards.

The child’s mom says she develops a special bond with everyone.

“She knows mostly everybody that comes in here by name,” said Paige Hinson. “If they’re new, she’ll probably know them the next time.”

Hinson’s rent is $1,300 dollars a month to rent a 2,400 square-foot space. About 90 percent of her operating costs come from fundraising.

The grant from Tyson Foods will cover operating expenses, as well as a commercial freezer to help her maintain choices for her clients.

The 12-year-old is also determined to reach even greater heights.

“I want it to be a warehouse, a 10,000 square foot warehouse, that’s what I want it to be.”

Hinson thanked the company for the generous gift at Saturday’s event.

“Running a food pantry is about more than just food,” she said. “It’s how you make people feel when they walk in the door. With this support from Tyson Foods, now I can make more people feel good, and I can’t say ‘thank you’ enough for that.”

“The impact the Make a Difference Food Pantry has had on this community in such a short time is incredible – regardless of the founder’s age. But what makes Kenzie so remarkable is that, at 12 years old, she is more passionate, knowledgeable and driven than many people three times her age,” said Sara Lilygren, executive vice president, corporate affairs at Tyson Foods.

Hinson was also recognized with a city proclamation establishing June 18 as “Kenzie Hinson Meals that Matter Day” in Goldsboro.

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