Riley and Bella Sauter founded Feed the People. Photo courtesy of Mindy Sauter

Two Lakewood teens have fed more than 16,000 homeless people through their organization, Feed the People, since the coronavirus pandemic began, but it all started with 30 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches

Riley Sauter, 16, and Bella Sauter, 15, noticed an increasing number of homeless congregating downtown when Dallas’ shelter-in-place order began in mid-March. Homeless shelters couldn’t provide the same level of service because of the pandemic, so the Bishop Lynch High School students made 30 sandwiches and distributed them to the homeless. The next week, they made 100. The week after that, they added chips and a drink.

Their mom, Mindy Sauter, posted about their efforts on Facebook, and the community rallied behind them with more donations delivered to their door. The Sauter sisters didn’t stop there. They partnered with local eateries, such as Leila Bakery and Nothing Bundt Cakes White Rock, as well as corporations like Blue Bell, Shake Shack and Tom Thumb, to provide more meals.

They deliver the sack lunches every Wednesday and Sunday on a route that passes by several areas in Dallas where the homeless congregate.

“We met some really great friends,” Riley said. “Homeless people get a bad rap, but there’s a great number of them who are great people, just in a bad spot.”

Some of the food is given to homeless shelters that may lack donations because of the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. One such place is Family Gateway, which provides housing, educational and social services to homeless families with children in Dallas County. The shelter can no longer provide cafeteria-style meals, so the sisters provide 150 breakfast, snack and meal bags that Family Gateway staff deliver to recipients’ doors.

What started as COVID-19 relief is well on its way to becoming a nonprofit. The Sauters recently filed the paperwork to turn Feed the People into a nonprofit so it can be eligible for large corporate donations.

“We never saw it getting this big,” Bella said. “It’s been a huge blessing that it has. We’ve been able to help so many people. As long as we can, we’ll do our part.”

Neighbors who would like to help can purchase items on the organization’s Amazon registry, make meal bags or donate financially on Venmo at @ftpdallas.

“The homeless are so sharing,” Mindy says. “If we drop the bags off in one place, we know they’ll help us spread them to others. As a parent, that’s something I try to teach my girls — to take care of the people around you.”

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