Scott Best was born in Aurora, Illinois into a world where he was certain that he would work in business soon enough. He received an undergraduate degree from Boston College and then made his way back to Illinois to get his MBA from Loyola University in Chicago. Mr. Best stayed in Chicago after graduating from Loyola and began working a job in what he had intended to do. After a good amount of time holding the job that he had, he began to question the work that he was doing and he told me that he was not doing anything in particular that he felt was “feeding his soul”. Since Scott was young, he recognized and was thankful for what he had in his life yet questioned why so many others around him were not as comfortable as he and his family so: he began volunteering at a local food pantry. Mr. Best told me that volunteering at Common Pantry in Chicago was “eye opening” and offered him a look into a world that he had never experienced. He learned more details than he could imagine about those who are hungry and what leads to hunger.
The help that he was able to provide those in need through the organization certainly seemed to cure his longing for something more than his business job. As luck would have it, Common Pantry became in need of a new executive director shortly after Scott began volunteering there and, due to his extensive work in business and high level of education, he applied and got the job. He was certainly getting the best of both worlds: working in business, as he always knew he would, and helping those in need every single day. Mr. Best and his family stayed in Chicago for some time while he led Common Pantry, but they eventually made their way down south to Winston-Salem, North Carolina in 2008 where the next chapter in Scott’s life was waiting for him. That chapter was indeed H.O.P.E. (Help Our People Eat) of Winston-Salem — a food pantry and delivery service that uses community-wide volunteer support to prepare and bring nutritious weekend meals to the thousands of citizens, children in particular, in Forsyth County who are at risk for hunger.
Scott Best became the executive director for another company in another one of the top locations in the United States for hunger in families with children. It was shocking to me personally when I found out how many people in Winston-Salem deal with or have dealt with food insecurity at some point or another in their life. One in ten people are hungry here in Winston. Over 30,000 children in Forsyth County are hungry and those numbers have increased drastically during this pandemic due to children being out of school and meals no longer being provided to them there. I was eager to discuss the work that Mr. Best does every day because I was honestly quite in the dark and unaware of the duties that the executive director of such an organization may possess and I found it very interesting to hear what he had to say about his work. The work that he did in Chicago at Common Pantry was incredibly similar to what he does here in Winston now so we focused mainly on the tasks that he is currently completing where he is currently working when discussing.
As the executive director, Scott Best is a sort of jack of all trades at the headquarters of H.O.P.E. He hops in to any place where he can be of help and is not afraid to use his hands while also maintaining all of the financial work that needs to be done to keep the organization up and running. He works hard throughout the week days to make sure that the upcoming weekend (which is the most busy time for H.O.P.E.) is organized and scheduled out precisely and efficiently. He makes sure that all of the items of food are in line and ready to be distributed and he oversees those who are preparing those items. One of the major focuses of H.O.P.E. of Winston-Salem is food distribution. It is quite simple really — Mr. Best, other employees and sometimes volunteers load up their company vans and they make their way to common places in neighborhoods with high populations of citizens living in poverty and in hunger. I was curious as to how the company decided on what neighborhoods they should visit and are in need of the most help and Scott told me that it really all comes down to the massive amounts of research on the poverty statistics of that particular area. They do their best to visit the areas with the highest amounts of poverty. They will meet at common, public locations such as churches in parks where they will distribute food to anyone who comes to see them.
A few factors that cause so many people in these specific ares to suffer from hunger may include poverty of course, job insecurity, location of living and access to transportation (whether or not you can easily get somewhere to buy groceries and food, etc) and suddenly, as I discussed previously, COVID-19 and its effects on the entire planet, which include the loss of jobs and the lack of provided meals from schools. After asking Mr. Best about the pandemic and how it has shifted the way that things work out for them, I was pleasantly surprised when he told me that the transition has actually not been too vast for him and those that he works with. The main reason that H.O.P.E. has run into few obstacles throughout this time of uncertainty is because the company was already incredibly clean and took many sanitary precautions just simply due to the fact that they work with food so they must keep the items clean and ready to safely eat at all times.
I believe that Scott Best and every other person that works for or volunteers with H.O.P.E. of Winston-Salem is a true change-maker and I have felt so honored to be educated further on what a day at the headquarters and on the road looks like and to have been tasked with the job of spreading the word about the incredible and crucial work that they all do.
Profile written by Anthony J. Costello (he/him/his)
May 17, 2021