Each balanced meal served by Forever Fed is intended to offer more than nutrition. The mobile feeding ministry’s founders hope to nurture both body and soul of folks living in impoverished areas of Cherokee County.
“We’re trying to create and build community, get neighbors to meet their neighbors,” Susan Vanderheyden said. “It gets them out of their homes and their isolation. Poverty is very isolating. There’s nothing to do with your time except maybe read a book, because you can’t afford much else.”
Vanderheyden began Forever Fed in 2010 after working several years with Church on the Street in Canton, a weekly outreach of First Baptist Woodstock.
While she and husband Bob had always dreamed of starting a soup kitchen in Canton, the direction she felt God leading them came as a surprise.
“The first message we got from God was, ‘Go feed people,’ ” Vanderheyden said. “Then I heard the word ‘mobile.’ ”
After a brainstorming session, she held the first event in the parking lot of Scott Mill Chapel in Canton. A team of volunteers prepared barbecue for the neighbors, and 85 people responded.
“We were amazed,” she said. “It was a big deal. Everyone had a great time, so we thought, let’s do it again next month.”
Since then, the ministry has become a 501c3 nonprofit and serves roughly 1,000 meals each month with the help of a crew of 125 volunteers. Vanderheyden estimates 75 percent of the food used comes from the Atlanta Community Food Bank.
The monthly schedule finds Forever Fed helping TurnAround Ministries each Tuesday, at Scott Mill Chapel with bounce houses and food on the second Saturday, at in Canton on the third Saturday and serving breakfast at on the first and third Sundays.
Meals are prepared in the kitchen at in Woodstock, and packed on the truck, which Vanderheyden describes as “a party on wheels,” including everything needed for a block party, from tables and chairs to a sound system.
The ministry follows USDA guidelines and ServSafe procedures for food preparation and service. Each meal includes one meat, one veggie, one starch, one fruit, and sometimes dessert, depending on the occasion. At the Kid’s Bible Club weekly dinners, they even work to creatively disguise veggies within the beefy macaroni casserole.
Vanderheyden believes the next step for Forever Fed is creating a community center, which would be a combination of a soup kitchen and a place where kids can get tutoring, have Internet access and attend classes.
“The kids in impoverished homes don’t have those things, so by the time they reach high school, they’re dropping out,” she said. “Our goal is to come up with some sort of avenue for success so they can compete with the other kids at school. If we can set kids up to succeed, maybe they can break that chain of poverty.”
The mother of three high school and collee graduates has no doubt that her work in nursing, real estate, children’s ministry, and local mission have uniquely prepared her for what she’s doing today.
“I’ve been trained up just to do this job and I know with all my heart I’m doing what God wants me to do,” she said. “My nest isn’t empty at all. I have three children in my home, but have about 1,000 kids we serve outside our home.”
- Forever Fed will hold its "Second Birthday Bash" at 6 p.m. Aug. 11 at Scott Mill Chapel, 411 Scott Mill Rd., Canton. A free health screening and dental evaluation clinic will begin at 4 p.m. Meals will be served at 6. For more information, visit www.foreverfed.org.
Editor's note: A version of this story previously appeared in the August edition of The Cherokee Vine, a monthly newsletter that highlights news and events from churches, ministries and charitable organizations in Cherokee County.