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

GOLDSBORO, N.C. – A 12-year-old Goldsboro girl, who founded and operates a food pantry in the city, was named a “Meals that Matter Hero” and received a $20,000 grant from Tyson Foods on Saturday, the company announced.

RELATED: 12-year-old girl the driving force behind Goldsboro food pantry

Tyson and the City of Goldsboro recognized Mackenzie “Kenzie” Hinson for her efforts in fighting hunger in her community.

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)

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.

The 7th grader is state certified, and the recipient of many service awards but she is passionate about serving others.

Mackenzie’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.”

Mackenzie’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.

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

“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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