Feeding America: Using food to build relationships

Hunger Action Month

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — It all started seven years ago, when one man walked up to another, offering a burrito.

For years, Kevin Batsford was heading down a dark path of hard drugs, alcohol, and addiction. It got so severe, his three daughters wouldn’t talk to him.

“I was one of the guys on the streets holding a cardboard sign on the off-ramp. I was on Teall ave and I was sleeping under the bridge over there,” said Batsford, pointing.

But then John Tumino came along with a meal.

“The food for us is this tool, to talk to you so you’re going to want to see me for this wonderful lunch every time I come out, but what ends up happening is the more I see you, this food becomes a secondary thing and it becomes a relationship,” Tumino said. 

That one interaction grew into a friendship between the two. For a year, Tumino would bring Batsford two or three meals a week.

“He would come out and I would just like be under a bridge and he would come right down and sit under the bridge and have lunch with me and just talk to me you know, and he never talked down to me which is big,” Batsford recalled. 

That’s when everything started to turn around. Batsford made the decision on his own to  enter rehab, and asked Tumino to be his mentor and advocate for him, Tumino recounted. 

From there, Batsford was given the tools to succeed. He was able to get his life back. 

“It’s a whole other life, I have a great job, I have a car, I have my own place, I got married a few years ago, you know my kids are back in my life,” Batsford said. 

He’s in charge of Hire Ground, a program he’s all too familiar with.

“We call them our friends and I love them and what’s been done for me, now I’m doing it for other people,” said Batsford of what the program does for him and others. The program, he says, is about building relationships with people in need, and connecting them to the services they need. 

Batsford said that if it weren’t for Tumino’s kindness in giving him the burrito that day, “I would probably be dead by now, I’m pretty sure I would be.”

In this way, the program not only keeps people fed, it also feeds the soul of the community.

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