Community Issues

This Teen Baker Is Helping Feed His Community

When he saw how people were struggling during the pandemic, he put on his apron and got to work.

Any good baker knows that vanilla extract is one of the most important ingredients to have in your cupboard.

Teenager William Cabaniss of Knoxville, TN knows this well. He's been using the ingredient in his recipes for years - and now, he's bottling his own and selling it for a good cause.

William was working on a batch of his famous 'vanilla' brownies when he saw a news story about the long lines forming at food banks due to the pandemic. With mixer still in hand, he knew he had to do something to help.

The fourteen-year-old came up with the idea to make and sell vanilla and donate all of the proceeds to Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee to help feed families in need.

William came up with the idea to make and sell vanilla extract and sell it to support his local food bank after watching a news story. @vanillafeedstomorrow

William calls his operation, "Vanilla Feeds Tomorrow," and thanks to a lot of hard work, determination and help from his supportive family, he's been able to raise over $9,000 - an amount that will provide for over 27,000 meals.

"I thought, I could help people who need this food by selling this product that I like so much," William told WBIR-TV.

William picked out the bottles, designed the labels and came up with the packaging for the bottles of vanilla. @vanillafeedstomorrow

Giving back to the community is nothing new for William. His mother, Jillina Cabaniss, recalls her son having a kind heart, even at a young age.

"As a kindergartner, I can remember William taking part of his allowance and wanting to give to local food banks in Crossville," Jillina said. "So we would go to the grocery store and buy bananas."

William has already made over $9,000 from his vanilla bottles, which has paid for over 27,000 meals. @vanillafeedstomorrow

William started his project in May, when he was mostly staying home during the coronavirus lockdown. While most of his friends were playing video games or watching TV, William was designing labels, building a website and getting his business certified as a legal 501 c(3) foundation.

Vanilla Feeds Tomorrow is a family effort, with William's grandmother running his social media accounts, his father overseeing legal and financial matters and his mom driving him around to deliver his orders. Even his siblings pitch in by making boxes.

"He is so dedicated," Jillian said. "To him this is not about anything about him, this is not about even really the vanilla. He truly has the desire to help other people."

William says he sees himself selling vanilla "for the foreseeable future" and he hopes to help as many people as possible.

"If I can only help one person, I will be satisfied that I have made a difference," he said. "However, I would like to do this for as many people as I can. No one should have to worry about hunger. This is my goal for Vanilla Feeds Tomorrow."

William says that he'll be making and selling his vanilla for a long time so that he can help feed as many people as he can. @vanillafeedstomorrow

We love stories of young people going above and beyond to help those in need. We can't wait to see how Vanilla Feeds Tomorrow continues to grow!

How can you start something good?

You can purchase a bottle of William's vanilla extract from the Vanilla Feeds Tomorrow website.

You an add a cash donation to your order by clicking here.

Let's #StartSomethingGood together!

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