Eagle Scout Jayden Bryant stands in front of some of the 50 bags of food given away during his Know Your Neighbor Food Drive. Photos by Vivian Shipe

By Vivian Shipe

Boxes and bags fill the conference room awaiting delivery into the hands of those in need.

KNOXVILLE, TN — The project that began in the cold of winter is complete. Jayden Bryant, a senior at L&N Stem Academy had created the project to complete his quest to achieve the highest ranking of scouting: the level of Eagle Scout of which only 4 percent of scouts ever attain.

Bryant wanted to specifically help refugee families in the East Knoxville community. His research had taught him that these were families who had fled their countries with nothing. They were running from disasters or wars. Bryant knew these families had no money to buy food and he learned their diets were different from the American palate.

Bryant determined to make his project meet the needs of refugees and show them they were welcome in the community. Thus was born the “Know Your Neighbor” Food Drive.

Jayden Bryant training nephew Tayshawn who helped in every aspect of the food drive thru from set up, execution, and clean up.

From January to September, Bryant partnered with his school, the University of Tennessee Upward Bound Program, C.O.N.N.E.C T Ministries and his sponsor, I AM The Voice of the Voiceless. For nine months he collected foods that were recognizable to those he was trying to serve. Flour, masa, rice, noodles, meal, beans, canned veggies and assorted spices of all types were among the many foods dropped off into special bins. 

Finally, came the time to give.

After collecting all the foods from the drop points, the items were carefully inventoried and bagged. Bryant made sure nothing that was expired made it into the red bags. Then he turned to the trusted messengers in the community who knew where those in need were staying.

Jayden Bryant spent hours doing inventory and packing the food leading up to the event.

Bryant got in contact with Deni Kidd, a local humanitarian who has been helping refugees for over 17 years. With Kidd as a trusted messenger he would place into her hands, food for seven Ukrainian families who recently landed in Knoxville with nothing but the clothes on their backs. 

He also contacted other organizations who help refugees from other countries and got help from local media to put out the word that there would be a food drive thru. All the people had to do was pull up and open the trunk and the food would placed in their vehicles.

Saturday arrived and  under rain-filled clouds  that mercifully held off, Bryant and his nephew Tayshawn, who he is teaching how to serve, set up a table on the grounds of C.O.N.N.E.C.T Ministries and began placing the food in the cars that drove up.

Humanitarian and community advocate Deni Kidd loads the back of her vehicle with foods to take to Ukrainian refugees.

From 1-3 pm, they served the community. Kidd’s car was the last car filled up with bags that she would deliver on Sunday afternoon.

As he looked at the now empty room, once filled with 50 bags of food, Bryant remarked at how good it felt to give. Now that the project is complete, he  now has to complete a paper on the project and do a presentation.

Bryant hopes to complete all of the requirements for Eagle Scout ranking by the end of October.