Photo credit: Justin Christopher
Cheryl “Action” Jackson is a keynote speaker, award-winning social entrepreneur, author, television host and producer.
Just as her nickname suggest, Cheryl Jackson is a woman of ACTION! She has persevered from experiencing hunger to providing children and families through her award-winning organization, Minnie’s Food Pantry, a charity she founded to honor her mother, the late Dr. Minnie Hawthorne Ewing. Under her leadership. Minnie’s has distributed over 17 million meals to children and families in need. Minnie’s Food Pantry has expanded their headquarters from a 500 square foot building to a 28,000 square foot building complete with a Learning Lab to teach the people they serve. Minnie’s Food Pantry currently has 5 locations in three states and is building a 6th location. minniesfoodpantry.org
In April 2018, Oprah Winfrey joined Jackson’s cause, she served as the keynote speaker for Minnie’s Food Pantry’s 10th Annual Gala. The world leader and media mogul raised over one million dollars to help Jackson continue her mission of providing healthy meals to the community.
Jackson has received support from Mark Cuban, Mark Burnett, Martha Stewart, Jeffrey Katzenberg and DreamWorks. The BET Network recognized Minnie’s Food Pantry on their 30 years anniversary and donated $30,000 to their mission. Jackson has brought the issue of food insecurity to the forefront on both a local and national level through features on national television shows including ELLEN and Good Morning America where she was honored with the Hometown Hero Award by singer Rihanna, Steve Martin and Jim Parsons who also came to serve side by side with her. Other media outlets Cheryl
Jackson has been featured in include Essence, Jet Magazine, ABC News, NBC, CBS The Talk, Oprah Winfrey.com, TBN, The Steve Harvey Show and the documentary “Hunger Hits Home” by the Food Network.
You are described as a woman of action! Who has boldly overcome barriers. Share your background.
I grew up in Dallas in the hood, but I still do good, as I hear people say. Whatever I want I go after it. I do the work. A lot of people don’t achieve success because they don’t work for it. So, every single day I work to achieve my goals, my vision for my life and for my non-profit organization.
Tell us about your mother, Dr. Minnie Hawthorne Ewing and what led you to Minnie’s Food Pantry.
Ms. Minnie was a servant leader, pastor and my best friend. I watched my mother give everything she had. It was amazing to me because we didn’t have a lot. So, it showed me that when you give a lot because when you give all you have that is a lot. I started Minnie’s Food Pantry because it was a moment in my life where I couldn’t feed my own children. When I applied for food stamps, it was the most terrific experience. My mother taught us to give your best and be your best. She loved singing, she loved a good smelling house. So, I thought what would happen when someone who needed food, could walk in and hear music and they smell candles. I did interviews on the red carpet, so I thought about what it would be like with their head down, then they opened their eyes and saw a red carpet rolled out for them. That’s what led me to starting Minnie’s Food Pantry. My father passed away and I wanted to honor my mother while she was still living so she got to see 7 great years serving under the name Minnie’s.
How are you preparing for the holidays? What is needed the most?
I am preparing for the holidays by going out and trying to find turkeys. There is a turkey shortage. Turkeys have increased in priced by 73% this year. What do we need the most? We need a lot of mixed vegetables; we need cake mix and icing. At Minnie’s we give out and distribute a Thanksgiving meal. Everything that goes into making a meal that is what we need. We depend on the community for support.
You have received support from Oprah, Mark Cuban, Mark Burnett, Martha Stewart and other celebs. Who has surprised you the most?
I think the person who surprised me the most had to be Oprah. She fueled her own jet, flew all the way to Texas, and raised millions of dollars for my non-profit organization. She gave me something you can’t buy and that is time. And for someone to see the work we are doing at Minnie’s Food Pantry and give their stamp of approval by funding their own way and transportation to come to my event and then speak at our event is just mind blowing for me. Oprah Winfrey is a mogul, she’s one of a kind. I always watch the videos of her, and it just brings joy. I am very grateful.
Can you share a powerful story about your work?
One of the things people may not understand is how difficult it is to raise money. In the early stages of Minnie’s Food Pantry, the day I decided to call in; I prayed to God to give me a sign. I remember Erica called me and said you got to come in you got to see this. When I got to the office, there were two kids, holding a sign. The sign read, “When I was hungry you fed me.” They raised $1,385 and my rent was $1,350. They raised it by selling M&Ms within two months prior to giving the check. It spoke to me as a spiritual person, while you yet calling, God is answering. Don’t be dismayed. You are going to be tested. Your test is your testimony. When my mother died, I was sitting in the bed with my pjs on, crying and saying I can’t go any further. God if I am supposed to go further, give me a sign. I looked at my phone and it was a text message from Oprah saying, “I didn’t know your mother passed going to donate $100,000 in her name. Signs are all around me. Stories are all around me. And I love sharing them.
You are one of the most engaging and thought-provoking keynote speakers of our time. Where can we see you next?
Most of my speaking engagements are private events. Now I am hosting my own conference so August 2023, you can come see me at The Reset conference. I will be sharing topics about living on purpose, leaving a legacy, and being a servant leader and what that looks like.
Please share your current projects.
Currently my projects are raising money for Minnie’s Food Pantry. Wanted to make sure they have food for the holidays. We do a toy drive giveaway for the kids we serve, and we also give an item for Christmas to the senior citizens we serve. So, my next 60 days, I will spend it completely focused to make sure the families we serve will have everything they need to make the holidays as manageable as possible. I have a podcast out called the The Girl Can Talk. I am also launching my one-on-one coaching and workshops, and my new book next year, and You can find all information on my website www.cherylactionjackson.com.