Hormel Foods, a global branded food company, celebrated the efforts of remarkable youth throughout the United States who are working to create a better world by designing innovative ways for a more transparent, secure and sustainable food system. To recognize and spotlight these 10 young individuals for their contributions, Hormel Foods launched its inaugural "10 Under 20 Food Heroes Awards" program during its first-ever Spirit Week, a companywide virtual celebration set for Sept. 14-18.
The Food Heroes Awards ceremony took place during Spirit Week in lieu of the previously scheduled ceremony set for the company's second annual Small Change Big Impact Food Summit at Harvard University. The change was due to restrictions caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic. The Small Change Big Impact Food Summit, which brings together leaders and experts from across the entire industry, fosters forward-thinking ideas to create a better food system. It is scheduled to return next year.
Suggesting ways to feed those in need and efforts to save our planet, this incredible group of 10 Under 20 Food Heroes has demonstrated that anyone can make a difference in the world, regardless of age, background or resources. For their work, Hormel Foods presented award winners with grants to use on their journey as the next generation's great change-makers.
"We are motivated by the work of these ten incredible food heroes and their efforts to fight food insecurity, protect our environment and help those in need," said Jim Snee, chairman of the board, president and chief executive officer at Hormel Foods. "Ranging from 6 to 20, these young visionaries have created cutting-edge ideas, grassroots efforts and high-impact initiatives that are making a difference in their communities and the greater world. We are humbled and honored to celebrate them as they demonstrate that the smallest of efforts can often lead to a significant impact."
"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," Snee continued. "Their ideas and work already suggest the positive impact they will have on the world for generations to come. They also remind us how we can all 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."
In addition to the 10 Under 20 Food Heroes, Hormel Foods will be honoring 19-year-old Joshua Williams, who is a true change-maker. Now a junior at NYU's Stern School of Business, when he 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 help him do all of this incredible work. Team members at Hormel Foods were so energized by Williams, they decided to make him the first ambassador for the 10 Under 20 Food Impact Awards. He is a tremendous force for good in the world and continues to inspire up-and-coming change-makers who are just getting started in their efforts to improve the lives of others in their communities.
The inaugural class of 10 Under 20 Food Heroes honorees, in no specific order, are:
Elise Simokat, Hurricane, West Virginia - Age 1 3 – Founder, Box to Belly Challenge
- Elise Simokat delivered holiday meals to students who are part of the Backpack Buddy program. Backpack Buddy provides nonperishable food and meals for students who may otherwise not have a full meal during the weekend. Simokat's goal was to expand the food offerings to make sure no student went hungry and would have warm food options during long holiday breaks.
- Simokat visited every Putnam County school and a few schools in Kanawha, totaling around 24 schools. She was able to provide and deliver approximately 2,100 meals to students by raising money for meals via social media platforms like Facebook. She also received a donation of 1,000 HORMEL COMPLEATS meals from Hormel Foods Corp. The company has since donated more than 2,000 additional meals to her and held a meal-packing event at a recent leadership meeting.
Grace Callwood, Hartford County, Maryland - Age 16 - We Cancerve
- Getting a diagnosis of cancer is perhaps one of the hardest things for anyone to hear. Hearing those words as a 7-year-old is unfathomable, but this was the reality for Grace Callwood when she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
- In 2012, she started the We Cancerve Movement, a nonprofit that brings 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, she is a healthy and inspiring young leader who decided to create an organization focused on helping vulnerable children – those experiencing homelessness or illness, and those in foster care. Now 16, she runs the organization with an all-youth board of advisors to bring food, toys and literacy to thousands of vulnerable young people.
Liam Hannon, Cambridge, Massachusetts – Age 13 - Lunches of Love
- 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.
- He decided to skip summer camp to make a difference by creating lunches to give out to the homeless in Cambridge.
- To date, he has given away more than 10,000 meals and has flown around the country spreading good will.
Mikaila Ulmer, Austin, Texas - Age 15 – Founder, Me & the Bees
- After learning about how much bees do for the environment and how they're dying out, 4-year-old Mikaila Ulmer decided to take action by joining a local children's-business competition.
- Her product is a family lemonade recipe sweetened with locally produced honey, with a portion of the sales going to organizations fighting to save the honeybee population.
- Thanks to a deal on "Shark Tank," over the past decade, Mikaila has sold more than 1 million bottles of Me & the Bees Lemonade across 1,000 stores in the U.S., including Whole Foods and Macy's.
Adam Fellows, Sherrill, New York – Age 19 - Food Pantry Sherrill
- For his high school senior project, Adam Fellows was focused on collecting food for his local food pantry, but there was a slight problem. The food pantry was closed.
- To combat this issue, Fellows decided to build a food pantry in Sherrill, New York, after the original one closed down and the community was not being served.
Kiki Hardee, Vista, California – Age 6 – Kiki's Kindness Project: School Lunch Debt
- At the wise old age of 5, Kiki Hardee heard that some of her classmates were unable to pay for lunch, which didn't sit well with this young leader!
- Her compassion and kindness for her classmates created what is now called Kiki's Kindness Project.
- Hardee created a cocoa-and-cookies stand to raise money to pay off school lunch debt and also went beyond her own school and helped pay off the district's debt of $7,000.
Jahkil Jackson, Chicago, Illinois – Age 13 - Project I Am
- Project I Am was created by 8-year-old Jahkil Jackson out of his heartfelt desire to help those in need. One day, he decided to help his aunt distribute food to homeless people in Chicago. After this experience, Jackson knew he wanted to do more to make a difference.
- 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" – a giveaway filled with wipes, socks, deodorant, hand sanitizer, granola bars, toothbrushes, toothpaste, bottled water and more.
Bradley Ferguson - Age 19 - Founder, Post Crashers
- 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 funding from grants that he penned.
- The following year, he witnessed the tragic death of a United State military veteran who set himself on fire out of despair. Ferguson became determined to help veterans suffering with mental illness and homelessness by hosting advocacy dinners. 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 full-course 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.
- His second organization, Mustangs Against Hunger, established in 2017, is a high school food pantry that distributes thousands of pounds of nonperishable food to hundreds of families in need.
Lucas Hobbs, Age 17 - Eagan, Minnesota – ChefLucasFood
- 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 his wish granted. Many kids use their wishes to go to Disney or to attend a sporting event, but not Hobbs. His wish was to partner with Minnesota food trucks so that he could give back to his community and other kids battling cancer.
- ChefLucasFood is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization founded in Minnesota by the Hobbs family during the fall of 2015 after Lucas Hobbs exercised his wish to use food trucks to communicate his appreciation to the community that supported him during his battle with cancer.
- Today, through food industry partnerships, the organization hosts a broad range of food-truck charitable events. They benefit service organizations and serve the needs of families battling pediatric cancer by providing meals at no cost.
King Middle School (Portland, Maine)
- King Middle School students are known to excel at many things, but perhaps the daily commitment of the collective student body to eliminate food waste is among the greatest of their achievements.
- King Middle School students decided to take on food waste at their school and created a five-part waste separation system, including shared tables, compost guardians and plastic-bag reduction.