Hungry Heroes: Serving with Heart and Flavor

Welcome to the Low and Slow BBQ Blog, where we celebrate the art of barbecue and the stories behind those who use it to make a difference. Today, we’re shining a spotlight on Hungry Heroes and the remarkable individual behind it. Keep reading to learn about a South Carolina-based organization spreading comfort, support, and barbecue to those who serve and protect our communities.

Listen to this episode of The Low & Slow Barbecue Show with Amanda Riggan for our complete conversation.

Screenshot of Chigger Willard interviewing Hungry Heroes Founder Amanda Riggan.
Chigger Willard interviews Hungry Heroes Founder Amanda Riggan on The Low & Slow Barbecue Show.

Meet Amanda Riggan and Hungry Heroes

In the wake of tragedy, Amanda Riggan founded Hungry Heroes in 2018 to support first responders in her community. Inspired by a local ambush that claimed the life of York County (SC) Sheriff’s Department Det. Mike Doty, Amanda recognized the healing power of a hot meal shared among those who sacrifice so much for our safety.

“People were putting think blue line flags on their house and blue light bulbs,” she says, “but I wanted to tangibly make a difference. So I started barbecuing just to heal York County.”

Hungry Heroes operates with a simple yet powerful mission: to cater and provide barbecue as a heartfelt thank you to all first responders – firefighters, EMS, and police. What sets Hungry Heroes apart is a commitment to being there not just in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy but also in the weeks and months that follow, when the need for support often goes unnoticed.

“I have learned through the years of doing this that when a tragedy first happens, a lot of times the agencies get flooded with love and overwhelming support,” Amanda says. “And so the weeks and the months that follow is when they really need us. It’s when people’s lives kind of get back to normal.”

What is Hungry Heroes?

Hungry Heroes is a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) with the mission to serve first responders, military, and veterans and show gratitude for their services through BBQ. The organization is led by Amanda Riggan, a five-member board of directors, and 10 crew members. York County area volunteers support local activities, and the organization is growing a larger national footprint through social media and online support.

Hungry Heroes serves 12-15 meal events each year, many are planned in advance. Some are not.

“A tragedy happens, or an emergency happens … we have to be ready,” Amanda Riggan says. “One of the most memorable events was when the condos collapsed in South Florida [in 2021]. We got a phone call and flew out the next morning to serve first responders who were cleaning up the aftermath. Things like that aren’t planned.”

Since its founding in 2018, Hungry Heroes has served roughly over 50,000 meals, Amanda estimates.

Hungry Heroes badge

The Hungry Heroes Mobile Kitchen Trailer: A Game Changer

Exciting news is on the horizon for Hungry Heroes. Amanda shared with us her vision for a new mobile kitchen trailer that is currently being built in Nashville. This innovative addition will allow Hungry Heroes to expand their reach and respond swiftly to emergencies nationwide, fulfilling Amanda’s dream of serving those in need wherever they may be.

“My dream is to always roll up in New York on 9/11 and serve,” Amanda says. “I’m hoping that happens this year.”

Imagine the impact – a fully equipped mobile kitchen arriving on-site to provide comfort and sustenance to first responders in crisis, all thanks to the Hungry Heroes efforts and the generous support of donors and volunteers.

Otherwise, 2024 is likely a “sustain and maintain year,” she says.

“Some years we’ve grown a lot, and some years we’re just maintaining,” Amanda says during our Low & Slow Barbecue Show interview. “I feel like [this year] is one of those.”

Hungry Heroes’ Pandemic Pivot

Less than two years after Hungry Heroes was founded in 2018, a global pandemic forced shutdowns throughout the Carolinas. While COVID limited the organization’s ability to travel, first responders’ needs didn’t diminish. In fact, the need for support grew among local emergency agencies.

“We had to think outside the box,” Amanda Riggan says. “So I started something called Stock the Fridge. Every week, we’ll choose a department to go to – EMS, fire, or police departments – and just literally stock their break room and lunch rooms with necessities.”

Providing Gatorade, snacks and other items became another way to show first responders, “we see you, and we appreciate you.”

“We also started Campus Heroes, where we would cater a meal to the school officers at elementary schools, high schools, and colleges because they usually can’t leave the campus where we are,” she says.

Those Hungry Heroes programs continue today.

How to Support the Hungry Heroes Mission

How can you get involved and support Hungry Heroes’ mission?

Amanda Riggan emphasizes that prayers and social media engagement are invaluable. You can also contribute financially by visiting their website, There, you’ll find Hungry Heroes donation options and Hungry Heroes merchandise that directly fund their initiatives.

For those local to the area, volunteering is a meaningful way to make a difference. Hungry Heroes welcomes individuals and groups who wish to lend a helping hand during their events.

Hungry Heroes logo

Amanda Riggan’s Barbecue Journey

Amanda Riggan’s passion for barbecue runs deep, rooted in her upbringing where grilling was a family affair.

“Growing up, my Dad was always grilling – smoking ribs, Boston butts, steaks,” she says. “I think I ate steaks and potatoes my entire life until I was probably 15, and I could cook for myself.”

Plus, Amanda’s mother is in food service – working in a deli bakery for 40+ years. Now retired, Mom plays a big part in the catering aspect of Hungry Heroes.

“In 2017, at Christmas, I got a new smoker,” she says. “I got a Traeger grill, and that all started it.”

A few months later, the ambush on police occurred, killing Det. Mike Doty and inspiring Amanda.

“I’d got this grill. I remember I’d come home from work every day and stop and buy chicken or beef or just anything because I wanted to turn the smoker on,” she says, adding that she was living alone with her daughter at the time. “That’s when it was laid on my heart, feed them. Just feed them,”

Amanda Riggan is still a Traeger enthusiast, finding joy in the simplicity of smoking and grilling outdoors.

“I love the smell of the fire, the wood burning,” she says. “And it brings everyone together. Whether you’re with strangers or family, it’s just the coolest hangout.”

Amanda’s favorite thing to cook on the Traeger? Dino beef ribs, preferably smoked over apple and Hickory pellets, a testament to her love for flavorful, slow-cooked meats. Although, she admits she’s cooked cakes, pies, muffins, and cookies in the smoker, as well.

Final Thoughts

Hungry Heroes is not just an organization – it’s a beacon of hope and support for our nation’s heroes. Amanda’s journey exemplifies the profound impact one person can have by simply offering a hot meal and a listening ear.

Signing off in this blog post, I invite you to support Hungry Heroes and other organizations that embody the spirit of giving through barbecue. Let’s continue celebrating the BBQ lifestyle while making a meaningful difference in our communities.

Stay tuned for more inspiring stories and delicious recipes here at Low & Slow Barbecue Blog. Until next time, keep the fire burning.

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