Knoxville teen starts nonprofit to help food banks amid pandemic

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A Knoxville teen hoping to make a difference has started a nonprofit.

William Cabaniss is raising money for food banks overwhelmed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cabaniss is 14 years old and just heading in to his freshman year of high school. But he really wants to help people struggling right now. He launched a brand new project, making and selling vanilla extract, with all profits going to Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee.

Every purchase helps fight hunger. That’s the mission behind the new nonprofit ‘Vanilla Feeds Tomorrow.’

“The vanilla extract is a great way to raise money for Second Harvest Food Bank, and they’re able to get meals to people that don’t have access to them anymore,” Cabaniss said.

He was inspired by the ingredient in his go-to dessert. Cabaniss added vanilla extract into what he now calls “vanilla brownies.”

“I was making vanilla brownies one time recently during the quarantine, and I was talking to my mom and dad about how people didn’t have food. We had just finished watching the news and how food banks were experiencing high demand, and the thought hit me that I could sell vanilla extract,” he said.

The teen really does it all, from making to bottling and shipping the extract.

He launched the nonprofit just a few days ago and has already raised more than $1,000. But his goal is measured in something more priceless than any specific amount.

“My goal is to help people and raise as much money as I can and help as many people as I can,” he said.

It’s why he chose Second Harvest. The East Tennessee food bank provides for his current residence of Knoxville and also his hometown of Crossville.

“Growing up, I had a lot of classmates that didn’t always have food, and it was important that I help people, and I know that there are people in Crossville that could use help,” Cabaniss said.

He knows the need won’t just go away. So Vanilla Feeds Tomorrow is something he says he can see himself doing for the foreseeable future.

“They’ll still need food while they’re finding jobs, after there’s a cure, however long this thing lasts,” he said.

Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee’s Director of Development told us between the week of April 13 through April 19, they distributed a record amount of food, so she is grateful for William’s efforts, and says what he’s doing has blown her away.

More information on purchasing the vanilla extract is available on Vanilla Feeds Tomorrow’s website.

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