2020 NC Child Hunger Hero Award Winners

Congrats to the 14 winners of the NC Child Hunger Hero Awards. Learn more about the Hero Awards here.

Download pictures of the winners here.

Linda Beard

East Bladen High School
Bladen County

As a social studies teacher at East Bladen High School in Bladen County, Linda Beard has made feeding children a priority by:

  • incorporating healthy recipes into lessons,
  • working with her students to introduce the “Eagles Feeding Eagles” food pantry in their school,
  • supporting her school's innovative Second Chance Breakfast program,
  • and going above and beyond to make sure students have food during holiday breaks.

Linda received nominations from fellow teachers and the school nutrition manager at East Bladen High School.

Jennifer Brown

Director of School Food Service
Swain County Schools
Swain County

As Director of School Food Service for Swain County Schools, Jennifer Brown is truly North Carolina's “Year-Round Meals for Kids” all-star. Swain is one of the few school districts in the state acting as its own sponsor for the At-Risk Afterschool Meals program. It is one of only 40 districts in the state meeting the national 70 percent goal for school breakfast participation, which it achieves by making breakfast part of the instructional day. And this summer, Swain County once again met a higher percentage of its need through the summer meals program than any other county in the state. Jennifer was nominated by her superintendent, Mark Sale, who said that “none of this would be possible without a dedicated and hardworking staff… led by an exceptional person.”

Deborah Davis Carpenter

Child Nutrition Executive Director
Hoke County Schools
Hoke County

Deborah Carpenter received more nominations than any other candidate for this year's NC Child Hunger Hero Awards. As Child Nutrition Executive Director for Hoke County Schools, she has led the district in drastically increasing school breakfast participation, using innovative service methods like Breakfast in the Classroom, Second Chance, and Grab and Go. Hoke County Schools currently has the highest ratio in the state of free-and-reduced-price-eligible students eating both school lunch and breakfast. This is a metric used nationally to evaluate success in the school breakfast program. In addition, she has worked diligently to make sure all students are served healthy, tasty meals at no charge for both breakfast and lunch, and all staff have a supportive and modern working environment. Deborah was nominated by her superintendent Freddie Williamson and other colleagues from Hoke County Schools.

Ritchie Cornette

Mulberry Elementary School
Wilkes County

Since becoming principal at Mulberry Elementary School in Wilkes County, Ritchie Cornette has started several initiatives to address child hunger in children in the community. These include:

  • proudly supporting participation in the Community Eligibility Provision, or CEP, to provide meals for free to all students;
  • a free outdoor food pantry, called the Grace Box, which Ritchie himself stocks every Friday afternoon for the week ahead;
  • adding Mulberry as a summer meals site for the past four years;
  • and, partnering with local churches, businesses, and other organizations to collect food, raise funds, and arrange events with the Wilkes Fresh food truck.

On top of all this, Mulberry Elementary has contributed record donations to the annual Friends Feeding Friends food drive under Ritchie’s leadership.

Sil Ganzó

Executive Director
Mecklenberg County

Sil Ganzó is the executive director of ourBRIDGE for KIDS, a non-profit afterschool program in Charlotte that is free for families and supports more than 200 refugee, immigrant, and newly-arrived K-8 students. This support includes providing them with a hot, healthy meal through the At-Risk Afterschool Meals program, which provides reimbursable meals for kids through community organizations, schools, and other partners. Last year, with support from the afterschool meals program, as well as local foundations the Jewish Community Center and the Sisters of Mercy, ourBRIDGE provided more than 30,000 meals for students and families. Sil believes everyone deserves great food and to be treated with dignity no matter their financial circumstances.

Tracey Holbert & Laura Valdez

Site Manager / Leasing Agent
Woodridge Apartments
Buncombe County

Tracey and Laura have gone beyond their roles as site manager and leasing agent at Woodridge Apartments in Asheville. They also volunteer their time to make the affordable housing community’s summer meals program – for which the YMCA acts as sponsor – fun and attractive to kids. They provide healthy food for kids and their families and extend resources to members of other communities. From hosting cookouts and movie nights for kids, to driving to Manna Food Bank on behalf of residents, they are leaving smiles on faces everywhere they go. They were nominated by their colleague Joyce Chambers, who said that residents “always tell me they don't know what they would do without Tracey and Laura.”

Melody Howell

School Nutrition Manager
Bethel School
Watauga County

Melody Howell, school nutrition manager at the Bethel School in Watauga County, brings excitement and enthusiasm to school meals with special events like an annual Thanksgiving meal, celebrations of National School Breakfast Week and Child Nutrition Week, and encouraging school staff and families to visit the cafeteria. She has also championed programs like Second Chance and Universal-Free breakfast. All of this has contributed to increased participation in school meals. Melody has worked to create an environment in our cafeteria in which all students feel a part of our school family, know they are loved, and know that their stomachs and hearts will be well fed. She is nominated by her principal, Brian Bettis, who writes:  "I can't decide who is loved more... Mrs. Howell by our students, or our students by Mrs. Howell."

Steve McCrossan

Executive Director
New Hanover County

Since becoming executive director four years ago, Steve has led the NourishNC team in more than doubling the size of its backpack program to serve 1,200 children from 50 schools, while also increasing the quality and quantity of the meal offerings. Steve has also led NourishNC in launching a number of new programs, including:

  • the Farmers MarKID program, which brings farm fresh fruits and veggies to food deserts and high-need areas,
  • the Food Farmacy Program, where children are screened for food insecurity in their doctor's office, and then provided with food if they are struggling with hunger,
  • and the Toddler Tummies Program, a partnership with other nonprofits to send food into the homes of 1-4 year-olds struggling with Adverse Childhood Events.

Located on the coast in New Hanover county, Steve and NourishNC also provided food assistance to those in need during Hurricane Florence and the federal government shutdown of 2019. NourishNC has a long standing partnership with the Food Bank of Central & Eastern NC, which provides food and funding in support of its weekend grocery program known as Weekend Power Pack.

Avery Pickett

Cape Fear High School
Cumberland County

Avery began working to help feed fellow students as a third grader, when she created a Backpack Buddies program at her elementary school. In the nine years since then, her work has included: fundraising, food drives, and support for both food pantries and the summer meals program, all to help her fellow students. She has also successfully petitioned Governor Roy Cooper twice for proclamations celebrating Backpack Buddy programs across the state. Avery is nominated by Brian Edkins, her principal at Cape Fear High School in Cumberland County, who said that in his 26 years as a public educator, he has “never had a student who worked as diligently and passionately to provide food to students that are hungry.”

Carol Schmitz-Corken

Bread Riot
Rowan County

Carol is a volunteer for the non-profit Bread Riot in Rowan County. She assists with the organization’s “Share the Harvest” grant work, which distributes produce from local farmers to kids and families who need it by "piggybacking" off of summer meals program routes and locations. Carol and the Bread Riot team distributed almost 3,000 pounds of produce last year. In addition to the work she does to help apply for grants, arrange distribution, and manage other volunteers, Carol also finds time to collect books and fun activities for kids, and share successes on social media. She was nominated by Meredith Honeycutt, a financial specialist with the school nutrition team at Rowan-Salisbury Schools.

Rosemary & Allen Stimpson

Summer Food Service Program Sponsors
Ezekiel AME Zion Church
Forsyth County

Rosemary and Allen Stimpson of Winston-Salem are a long-time Summer Food Service Program sponsor through their church, Ezekiel AME Zion. As a sponsor, Ezekiel AME Zion Church uses church members, community volunteers, and veterans every summer to prepare and deliver meals to more than 30 meal sites throughout the Winston-Salem area. Their eagerness to reach children, commitment to deliver meals to sites rather than requiring pick up, and kid-friendly menus of hot and cold foods, have led the service of more than 500,000 meals over the last five summers. This summer, the Stimpsons also joined forces with the Winston-Salem Think Orange campaign to connect children with not only summer meals, but also the many other organizations addressing food insecurity in Forsyth County.

Marcella Thompson

Summer Food Service Program Sponsors
The Mustard Seed
Durham County

Marcella opens up her own home, yard, and kitchen to make sure the children in her high-need community get the food they need. After feeding children in her community for years with her own personal resources, Marcella Thompson's Mustard Seed Project became an official summer meals site in Durham last year. Since last summer, people from Durham and beyond have come together to contribute to Marcella and her work. Her small, two-bedroom apartment now has three refrigerators filled with food for kids. Often called a “One-Woman Wonder” by the summer meals staff at DPI, Marcella’s hope is that continued community support will help her move her meals site and work out of her home and into a new space.