Have you heard of the ‘food lady’? She’s a modern day superhero, who hands out free food people to who need it in her local community. Meet restaurant owner, Lola Stephens-Bell, who fights hunger every day in East Austin Texas. Stephens-Bell tirelessly serves free meals to the vulnerable and closes her own restaurant, Nubian Queen Lola’s Cajun Soul Food, four days a week to do so, driving meals in an old school bus to underserved people in the area. Now, Lola Stephens-Bell’s extraordinary efforts are being publicly lauded by Tyson Foods and the City of Austin. (Stephen-Bell has a crowdfunding page at Indiegogo to help further her work.)
She is the first individual to be honored as part of Tyson Food’s pledge to invest $50 million in cash and in-kind donations over the next five years to fight hunger, with a special focus on local initiatives. The company has given the ‘food lady’ a customised food delivery bus with newly installed features to empower her mission of feeding the hungry in more communities in the Austin area. Sara Lilygren, EVP, Corporate Affairs at Tyson Foods, says, “When we first met Lola a few months ago, we were completely blown away by her selfless dedication to serving others. It’s people like Lola – people who treat hunger not as an abstract idea, but as a problem that can be solved one meal at a time – that make a difference. Tyson Foods is honoured to support Lola’s dedication to the community.” Tyson Foods will continue to support Stephens-Bell’s efforts with twice-a-week donations of protein to her operation.
This unsung heroine is a much loved figure in East Austin. She has provided free food to the less fortunate and hungry for the last 12 years, even while her own restaurant has struggled. Once homeless herself, she knows exactly how difficult going hungry can be. and still fasts to remind herself of the feeling. She has been recognised by Mayor Steve Adler in a mayoral proclamation establishing 15 January as Lola’s Meals that Matter Day.
The rising cost of housing, transportation and healthcare leaves many people in Austin to make impossible choices and painful sacrifices. Two-thirds of respondents in a survey said they have had to choose between buying food and paying for housing in the past year. Eighty percent say they had to choose between food and medicine.
Hunger is a serious issue in Austin. Stephens-Bell’s work is essential. As according to the United States Department of Agriculture, Texas is the second-hungriest state in the nation; on any given day, an estimated 4.2 million Texans are at risk of hunger. It is estimated that one in four of the children in Texas live in families that cannot afford healthy food. One hot meal can really make a difference, and Lola Stephen-Bell is making a difference in every life she touches.
Photo Credit: Nubian Queen Lola’s Cajun Soul Food
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