A Big Dream

For The Kingdom works to end food insecurity in Raleigh

Photography by Kim Thomas

In Raleigh, on 100 acres of land, sits For The Kingdom. 

When Executive Director Torrey Bates was first introduced to For The Kingdom in 2018, he wasn’t seeking it. Honestly, he had never even heard of it. But sometimes it’s what we’re not looking for that we need the most. And sometimes that thing we need ends up needing us too. As it turns out, that was true for Torrey Bates and For The Kingdom. They needed each other.

In the beginning

“It was 2018, and I was at a business party in Washington, D.C. I did consulting on leveraging budgets. While I was sitting at this dinner table, a lady just started telling me about For The Kingdom in Memphis,” recalls Torrey. 

With no prior knowledge of what the woman—For The Kingdom board member Becky Lloyd—was talking about, Torrey googled For The Kingdom. He found a picture, some broken links, and a short description. They offered summer camps, but for the better part of the calendar year, it seemed like they didn’t do much. 

But Becky continued to speak fervently about For The Kingdom. “We exchanged numbers and parted ways. But the next day, she sent me a Google image of the campus. It was huge!” he says.

At the time, Torrey, his wife, Jennifer, and their family lived in Atlanta. “I shared all of the information I had with my wife, and she said that I needed to help these people. So I put together a presentation for them. It detailed what they could do to make the most of what they had,” he recalls.

Then Becky flew Torrey and Jennifer to Memphis to see the campus in person. With a glimmer in his eye, Torrey says, “I could see the despair on the campus. It felt forgotten and under-resourced. But we fell in love with what we saw and what it could become.”

In January 2019, Torrey moved to Memphis and began sowing seeds.

“We started having ‘dining discussions.’ We invited community leaders, community members, teenagers, anyone who our presence could impact,” explains Torrey. During these meetings, they would feed everyone, talk about personal and community needs, and use that information to strategize ways For The Kingdom could help the Raleigh community.

Feed the Block

At the beginning of the pandemic, during a small staff meeting, Torrey and other employees were discussing summer plans. “I heard a voice clear as day say, ‘What are you waiting for?’” recalls Torrey. So instead of waiting, Torrey and his team decided to “Feed the Block.”

“We started with 50 meals, and we handed them out at an apartment complex. We had cowbells, and we were screaming, ‘Free lunch!’ By day three, we had kids sitting at the mailboxes waiting on us, and 150 meals were gone in 20 minutes,” says Torrey. Feed the Block quickly grew to 12 apartment complexes, giving out 900 meals a day. 

Support for Feed the Block came in droves from the community. People began volunteering to help distribute food. But funds were dwindling. “We were on our last dollar—literally! Thankfully, we were granted $548,000 in Covid relief funds,” says Torrey. 

Soon, other initiatives were seeded and grown. For The Kingdom wanted to do more to battle food insecurity in Raleigh and the surrounding communities. They launched a trifecta of services that feed into and support one another—Raleigh AgriHub, Exodus Marketplace, and LEAD Academy; plus, they formed a partnership with Memphis Tilth and its Bring It Food Hub. Together, they aim to fight food disparities, educate the community, and support local farmers.

Raleigh AgriHub

To start, they began educating youth. The Raleigh AgriHub is dedicated to educating the community, including youth, about food and nutrition. They have around 36 active acres of urban farmland in Raleigh. “We have greenhouses and learning gardens in several schools. By educating the kids, they can effect the change in our food system now.

By teaching and showing our kids how to grow and cultivate their own food, we are increasing the accessibility to nutrient-dense food in Raleigh,” Torrey explains. 

Exodus Marketplace 

Exodus Marketplace is a free-standing marketplace, juice bar, and meeting place all in one. It exists to provide the community with accessible memberships, affordable produce and pantry items, and a welcoming atmosphere.

Summerjoy Scott, For The Kingdom director of human development, explains the Exodus Marketplace name:

“Exodus is exactly what its name means—the first step toward the departure of food deserts in communities, and the way toward new living…

Exodus is for all. It creates a change in the local food economy, residents’ ability to have fresh produce at a fair cost, and further assists local farmers with bringing their produce from farm to table.”

Exodus Marketplace is Raleigh’s first free-standing, micro-marketplace and is rapidly becoming an anchor in the community. “Mr. Bates not only witnessed the need for healthy food options, but also the need to have these options in close proximity to individuals that lack transportation,” says Summerjoy.

The marketplace had a soft launch in April 2023. “We decided to use the container concept method to build this marketplace. We have a goal to turn the Raleigh and Frayser community into food abundance,” says Torrey. 

The LEAD Academy 

The LEAD Academy is a career path initiative where high school students gain invaluable education and—through a relationship with the National Basketball Association and the Department of Labor—complete paid internships. “Through LEAD Academy, students are able to not only learn about agriculture, but have the opportunity to be paid to learn about agriculture,” says Summerjoy. “Through the paid apprenticeship portion of LEAD Academy, students experience exposure to local farms and farmers, receive certifications, and have the opportunity to explore the different avenues of the agriculture business.” And agriculture isn’t the only focus. Students also can choose paths including construction, culinary arts, movie and video production, and STEM.

Memphis Tilth

In 2022, For The Kingdom established a collaborative partnership with Memphis Tilth. The late Mia Madison (then Memphis Tilth executive director) and Torrey both aimed to fight food insecurity in Memphis while simultaneously educating the community for sustainable living. Memphis Tilth has a cooperative with over two dozen local specialty crop growers. The farmers sell their produce to Memphis Tilth, where it is packaged for the Bring It Food Hub community supported agriculture (CSA) subscribers. The excess produce is available for purchase at the Exodus Market.

The fresh produce is priced in such a way that everyone can purchase nutrient-dense foods without breaking the bank.  

Through all of these initiatives, For The Kingdom feeds the community and also teaches community members to feed themselves. Torrey’s big dream? A day in which the community establishes its own local, sustainable food economy. 


Patricia Lockhart is a native Memphian who loves to read, write, cook, and eat. Her days are filled with laughter with her four kids and charming husband. By day, she’s a school librarian and a writer, but by night—she’s asleep. @memphisismyboyfriend

Kim Thomas is a lifestyle blogger and photographer based in Memphis. Launched in September 2010, her blog, KP Fusion, provides of-the-moment fashion, style, and beauty tips and trends with a little Memphis flavor thrown in. @kpfusion