Feed it Forward
Several days a week, Edmond resident Whitney Bates gets up at 6:30 am and begins gathering supplies for the meals she’ll hand out later that day, at lunchtime, to around 100 members of Oklahoma City’s homeless population. This has been her routine since December 2018, when she headed out to the streets to give out Christmas leftovers.
“I decided to package them up and take them down to the homeless as a way to get out of myself, because the holidays are hard on me because I don’t have much family,” Bates said.
“When I went down there my heart just broke,” Bates said.
However, she could also relate to their circumstances because she had encountered rough times early in her life when her next meal and a place to stay weren’t always a guarantee.
“I love being able to go down there and provide people with these precious meals,” Bates said. “It just brings so much joy to my heart, and to see their smiling faces is just everything to me.”
Bates spends all morning preparing and packaging the meals using a local church’s kitchen, before heading out to distribute them through her nonprofit organization, Feed it Forward OKC, a project she balances with her studies at OSU-OKC. It takes about 20 minutes to hand out the meals.
Bates also juggles these duties with applying for grants and writing bylaws for Feed it Forward, which she’s transformed from a primarily one-person operation to one with over 30 sponsors and a board of directors. In addition, she’s expanded the organization’s services from around 50 meals a week to between 300 and 400, for a total of over 4,000 meals since she started. She’s also raised over $20,000.
One of her main goals for Feed it Forward is to permanently institute a four-day-a-week schedule. Bates is also considering eventually opening a brick-and-mortar location, although she does like the current mobile model because it makes the organization’s services more accessible.
“What makes us unique and sets us apart from other nonprofits like us is that we are mobile, so we reach more people,” Bates said. “It’s not just a certain location of people. A lot of them live farther, and they can’t walk all day to get somewhere for a meal.”
Her initial vision for the organization was to create a permanent location offering three free meals a day as well as assistance to help people get back on their feet. It’s a mission that’s important to her because she herself once struggled.
“A lot of people praise me for it, but I don’t understand it, because to me I’m just doing what I’m meant to be doing,” Bates said. “This is the first
time in my life where I feel like I was put on this earth to do this one thing. This is what I was meant to do. It just brings me such joy and happiness.”