Sherri Porter: Providing millions of meals for kids in need

Hunger Fight serves meals to children when they are not in school for breakfast and lunch.

Sherri Porter created Hunger Fight in 2012 to provide meals to K-5 children when school isn’t in session.
Sherri Porter created Hunger Fight in 2012 to provide meals to K-5 children when school isn’t in session.
Photo by Dede Smith
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Spouses Sherri and Dean Porter at one time each made six-figure salaries in marketing. 

For the past 12 years they have found a greater calling.

They turned their backs on lucrative careers to care for more than 15,000 children in need.

That marketing experience allowed them to create a different fundraising model.

Sherri Porter, 57, created Hunger Fight, a 501(c)(3) charity, in 2012. It provides meals to K-5 students who receive subsidized school breakfasts and lunches to eat over the weekend when school is not in session.

Dean Porter, 61, quit his marketing career a couple of years later to join her.

The first two years, they didn’t take a salary. They sold a car and downsized their home. Even now they make a fraction of what they did before.

“My wife is a volunteer at heart,” Dean Porter said.

“To give you a little background, she volunteered me for 30 weekends during our first year of dating.”

Sherri Porter and her husband, Dean, work together at Hunger Fight providing meals for K-5 students.
Photo by Dede Smith

Deep spiritual beliefs gave her the courage to start Hunger Fight, Sherri Porter said.

The program feeds children as far south as Gainesville and west to Tallahassee and soon north toward Savannah, Georgia. 

Last year they provided 5.1 million meals. This year’s goal is 6 million to 8 million.

Including the Porters, Hunger Fight has eight employees.

Instead of applying for government grants or soliciting individual donations, most of their funds come from businesses, churches, clubs and neighborhood groups. 

For example, Palms Presbyterian Church recently completed its ninth annual Super Bowl packing day. The Episcopal School of Jacksonville will mark its 10th year.

Sherri Porter explained that Hunger Fight is too small to receive sizable government grants.

“There is a lot of red tape that you have to do. You almost need to have a full-time person that just does the red tape,” Dean Porter said.

“We run it more like a marketing company than a nonprofit,” Sherri Porter added.

Hunger Fight works with cash donations because it buys food directly from area farmers. It does not take grocery items that are close to their expiration date.

Last year, Hunger Fight provided 5.1 million meals. This year’s goal is 6 million to 8 million.
Hunger Fight

Hunger Fight recruits volunteers to join them in packing food for the children in need. Employers often use the occasion as a team-building moment, Dean Porter said. 

Depending on the size of the company, a donation to Hunger Fight is necessary. The cost of a packing session starts at $5,000. Hunger Fight conducts about 80 packing events a year.

Packing events are not limited to Northeast Florida. The Porters will take the packing show on the road.

The largest packing event took place in Salt Lake City. Over a day and a half, more than 9,000 volunteers packed 1.2 million meals. 

In May, the Porters will travel to Provo, Utah, for a 400,000-meal packing event.

About 40% of the packing events are done outside Northeast Florida, Dean Porter said.

“They have a blast doing it. It’s two hours of controlled chaos,” he said.

“And at the end of two hours we have packaged around 2,500 meals.”

Children receive macaroni and cheese, beans and rice, cheesy rice, brown sugar oatmeal, and a product similar to SpaghettiOs.

After food bags are packed, a team of 25 partners takes the bags to schools, usually on Thursday. The bags are distributed at the school on Friday for the children to take home.

During extended school breaks Hunger Fight prepares meals for the entire week. Families pick up the food bags at feeding centers.

Extra meals are included in the Friday pickups at school when there is a three-day weekend.

“The food goes pretty quick from all the different places (that offer free meals) during the summer,” Sherri Porter said.

Another part of Hunger Fight’s cause is to teach reading skills to pre-K children. Age-appropriate books are given to children to provide them a better chance of reading before first grade.

“We want to try to get them more engaged in reading, so they’re better prepared when they start school,” she said.

“We try to get fun books, with nice pictures and big letters.”

The Hunger Fight motto is: “Food for their bellies. Books for their brains.”



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