Meet HEART Market Coordinator Deonta Sweets | Maryland Food Bank
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Meet HEART Market Coordinator Deonta Sweets

September 24, 2019

Deonta Sweets joined the Maryland Food Bank knowing what it’s like to be hungry.

Growing up in West Baltimore, his mother worked long hours to provide for him and his five siblings, but sometimes, ends didn’t meet.

“Childhood hunger is common in communities like the ones I grew up in. Some families depended on meals three times a day through the before-care and after-care programs.”

Deonta Sweets

Heart Market Coordinator, Maryland Food Bank

“There were times we didn’t know if we were going to eat at all, but it’s not because my mother didn’t work hard,” said Sweets.

Like many working families struggling to put food on the table, Sweets’ mom did find some relief in feeding programs like SNAP and the Franklin Square Boys & Girls Club, which served after-school meals. This was Deonta’s first introduction to Supper Clubs — a Maryland Food Bank program in partnership with community organizations like YMCAs and Boys & Girls Clubs that provide children with free, nutritious meals made fresh daily by chefs in the food bank’s FoodWorks program.

“My mother worked from 3 to 11 p.m., so our last meal of the day was usually at the Boys & Girls Club,” Sweets reflected. “We were there to stay out of trouble, but we were also there to eat.”

At 14, Deonta started volunteering regularly at that same community center. He was later hired as their Program Aid, managing the very programs he was a recipient of as a child. Rising through the ranks, Deonta eventually became the branch’s executive director, responsible for the well-being of hundreds of families that were having experiences just like his.

HEART Market table with fruits

In neighborhoods that are food deserts, it’s common that the closest food source is the local corner store where there aren’t many nutritious options available. This fact sparked a fire in Deonta, and he created model feeding programs at his organization. Impressed with his leadership and passion for hunger, the Maryland Food Bank hired Deonta to run its newest program called HEART (Healthy Eats Are Really Tasty) Markets.

An innovative twist on a farmer’s market, HEART Markets are energetic events where children can “shop” for free fresh produce and learn how to turn wholesome foods into something tasty that their whole family can enjoy.

“It can be a challenge, and the kids are always on guard, so HEART Markets are a great way to break down stigmas and barriers that come with being hungry,” Sweets said. “They like the music and wellness activities but being able to bring home a bag full of groceries instills a sense of pride.

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