Kingsport fitness trainer packs weekend food bags for Hunger First

Holly Viers • Nov 18, 2018 at 2:30 PM

KINGSPORT — One Sunday about two years ago, Chris Ford was at a downtown laundromat when he noticed a group of people standing around Hunger First.

Though the organization isn’t open on Sundays, Ford’s first thought was that the people must have been waiting for food. The next day, he contacted Michael Gillis, executive director of Hunger First, with a proposition.

“I said, ‘What if I make food bags and drop them off on Fridays? That way they can pick them up and have something over the weekend,’ ” said Ford, a local fitness trainer. “After that, it just kind of got going.”

Two years later, Ford still prepares weekend food bags for Hunger First year-round. Donating an average of 30 bags each week, Ford has fed hundreds of people in need, using his nutrition background to ensure each bag is both nourishing and sustaining.

“I always thought, ‘If I ever got into a position to give back, I would give back,’ ” Ford said, “because I’ve been there.”

Each bag contains foods with enough carbohydrates, protein and other nutrients that the body needs to survive for two days. That alone has been a difference maker for Hunger First, Gillis said.

“We can put food together, but not like Chris is able to put it together, because he’s a fitness trainer,” Gillis said. “He knows the healthy snacks that can be put together to get you through the day, to get you through a weekend.”

Ford once had strong community support for his effort, but that support has fallen off over time. Now, he pays for all the food out of his own pocket.

“I don’t mind at all,” Ford said. “On average, it’s about $300 or $400 a month, and that’s well worth it to me.”

Ford said he’s preparing to switch over to wintertime bags, which will include instant soup cups and hand warmers. He’s also been supporting Hunger First in other ways, including donating to its food pantry and purchasing Christmas presents for children in need.

“He not only helps people that we help, but he helps people in his life to gain a healthier lifestyle, and that’s his objective,” Gillis said. “So to me, he’s that much more of an inspiration.”

Those who would like to support Ford’s effort to provide food bags can reach him on Facebook.

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