East Austin icon recognized in fight against hunger


Lola Stephens-Bell, better known as Miss Lola, was honored by Tyson Foods.

Tyson Foods donated a new bus for Miss Lola’s deliveries and a year’s supply of free chicken products.

For 12 years, Miss Lola has fed the less fortunate in East Austin.

As the purple, green and beige bus rolled into the Booker T. Washington Terraces in East Austin around lunchtime Friday, the driver blared out through a speaker: “We got food! We got food! Don’t be afraid, this is our new bus!”

A few minutes later, a group of three curious high school girls walked onto the parking lot. “Is that the food lady?” they asked each other.

It indeed was the “food lady,” Lola Stephens-Bell, known affectionately to the scores of people she hands out free food to as “Miss Lola.” She drove a new bus she had just been given by Tyson Foods as recognition for her efforts fighting hunger in the Austin area.

Stephens-Bell, who closes her Nubian Queen Lola’s Cajun Soul Food restaurant four times a week to feed the hungry, was the first person in the country to be recognized in Tyson’s new five-year initiative to invest $50 million over the next five years to people committed to fighting hunger.

“One hot meal really can make a difference,” said Charlie Solomon, a Tyson executive who spoke Friday at an event in her honor at the Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex in East Austin. “With one hot meal at a time, Lola makes a difference in every life she touches.”

As part of the recognition, Stephens-Bell was given a new bus to make her deliveries and a yearly supply of chicken products that will be delivered to her restaurant twice a week so she can continue feeding the hungry.

“Glory be to God!” she yelled, after climbing aboard the bus for the first time, following the ceremony.

Stephens-Bell is a beloved figure in East Austin who has provided free food to the less fortunate and hungry for 12 years, even while her restaurant has struggled. Once homeless herself, she knows how difficult going hungry can be and still fasts to remind herself of the feeling, she said.

Council Member Ora Houston, who spoke at the event, called her an East Austin icon and an “unsung heroine of the community.”

“What the world needs now is love, love, love,” Houston told the crowd. “That’s what Miss Lola brought here after she moved here from New Orleans. … Here’s your heroine. She knew what needed to be done and took action.”

Feeding the hungry, Stephens-Bell believes, is her ministry. When she visits low-income projects to hand out free food, she blares out her presence from a speaker in her van, and often quotes scripture and tells people how much God loves them.

Arnesha Johnson, a 17-year-old resident of Booker T. Washington Terraces who stopped by the van Friday, said Stephens-Bell’s visits help build community in the area.

That seems to make Stephens-Bell happy, and she hopes to expand her reach to such cities as Bastrop, Manor and Elgin with her new van. Even after her free chicken supply from Tyson runs out near the end of the year, she doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon.

“I’ll keep doing the work of God every day of my life,” she said. “Every child shall be fed.”

Reader Comments

Next Up in News

Jim Harrington: Expand voting, don’t suppress it
Jim Harrington: Expand voting, don’t suppress it
There was a time in the recent past when America did much to make it easier for people to vote. Congress passed the 1965 Voting Rights Act to undo...
Affidavit: Police accuse 24-year-old man of groping 12-year-old girl
Affidavit: Police accuse 24-year-old man of groping 12-year-old girl
A man accused of groping a 12-year-old girl in Travis County last year has been arrested.Aristi Eliuo Martinez, 24, faces a felony charge of...
Flint water crisis: What we know now
Flint water crisis: What we know now
More charges are expected to be announced in the Flint water crisis Friday. Three officials who had knowledge of the extreme levels of lead in the...
Group predicts today will be the end of the world
Group predicts today will be the end of the world
They've been wrong in the past and hopefully they're going to be wrong again, but a group that has predicted previous ends of the world has marked...
Blind burger taste test proves Texas’ favorite still reigns
Blind burger taste test proves Texas’ favorite still reigns
This Thursday, July 9, 2015 photo shows a Whataburger restaurant in San Antonio, Texas. The iconic Texas restaurant chain will not allow the open...
More Stories

You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com.

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of free premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.