When MaKenzie Williams was in kindergarten, she made a friend who would change her life.
“I quickly became inseparable with a girl in my class, and we did everything together. But I noticed she never ate during lunch and seemed sad,” MaKenzie, specialist in Corporate Communications, said. “After a few days I asked my mom to pack two lunches, and I’m sure she just assumed it was for my after-school program. In reality, I was giving my second lunch to my best friend.”
This experience sparked a lifelong mission for MaKenzie and the importance of not only recognizing hunger, but ways to tackle it. In high school, she spoke to her counselor about her future and was introduced to the Miss America Organization. The scholarship program equips women with interview and life skills while providing scholarships to further their education. Along with these skills, each candidate is required to have a social impact initiative.
Based on her early experience with food insecurity, MaKenzie created the campaign H.O.P.E. Hunger Oppresses People Everyday educates people on the signs of hunger and how to address such an invisible issue. This past summer, MaKenzie wrote a children’s book, The Tale of Two Lunches, which is based on her childhood and how she became an advocate for food insecurity at the age of five.
“Tale of Two Lunches is the perfect example of how two people can be in the same environment and have vastly different experiences,” MaKenzie said. “I hope people can realize there’s no age limit on making a difference. If you see something, say something – and try to find a solution.”
Her experience and passion for combating food insecurity led her to Tyson Foods where she supports internal communications for Health and Wellbeing and is the lead internal communications contact for Corporate Social Responsibility.
“My career at Tyson Foods has allowed me to constantly learn more about food insecurity, and I never imagined that I would be able to combine my job and passion project each day. There’s really something powerful about being surrounded by people that want to feed the world and make positive changes.”
Earlier this month, we committed $2.5 million to address food insecurity in partnership with Feeding America. We’ve also been donating protein throughout the month in recognition of Hunger Action Month – a time to fight food insecurity and work, collectively, to make sure no one has to make the choice between food and other necessities.
And for MaKenzie and H.O.P.E., every month is a time to act against hunger. She was recently named Miss River City 2023 and will compete for the Miss Arkansas title next year. Tale of Two Lunches should be available in print and on digital platforms this holiday season. She also started a H.O.P.E. Ambassadors program to build a community of people to keep the conversations about food insecurity going.
“I want there to be Ambassadors in every town in Arkansas – to start,” MaKenzie said. “Taking care of my home state is important to me, but hunger is everywhere, and I want to do my part.”