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'I've never had this much food in my kitchen' | Kentucky chef uses her craft to help the hungry in Hardin County

Chef Maria Bell is using her skills to keep her neighbors from going hungry.

RADCLIFF, Ky. — "Anything, anything can become a meal," Chef Maria Bell said, standing in a kitchen filled with donated items.

Her mission began with a single meal, her career began with a move. Bell moved from Crete, Greece to Radcliff, Kentucky and opened a restaurant here months before 9/11.

Her customer base mainly came from Fort Knox. The terrorist attack pushed the base to stiffen security and her deliveries got difficult. The business failed and she left with nothing.

Later, the Bell family saved up and opened a new restaurant in Louisville, next-door to Superchefs. They were doing well until a fire wiped them out once again. 

Her third try, back in Radcliff, was met with a pandemic. This time, she decided she wouldn't need a profit to cook for her community, and neighbors need not pay.

She took over a free Christmas dinner hosted each year in Radcliff and then decided one meal was not enough.

Bell formed a nonprofit called Be the Change Inc. The plan is simple; she asks neighbors to bring what they have and she'll cook a meal.

Pasta, produce, and assorted cans now fill the shelves at Be the Change. 

"It is wonderful, I've never had this much food in my kitchen," Maria said. 

Outside, you might notice a stake in the ground and a cabinet fixed to the top. It's what she calls a "blessing box." She fills it with food, sometimes multiple times a day, and neighbors are free to take from it or add to it. When she's not in the kitchen making meals, blessing boxes are the next best thing.

There are now seven scattered throughout Hardin County. In December, there will be eleven. She hopes there will be a hundred by 2024. Rather, she plans on that. 

You can learn more on her Facebook page.

 Contact reporter Tom Lally at TLally@whas11.com or on Facebook or Twitter.  

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