Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau Thursday announced the winners of the 2017 Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Awards. Winners will be recognized for their achievements and positive impact on the state’s natural resources in an awards ceremony to be held in Nashville on June 16.
“These organizations represent the spirit and drive that make the Volunteer State great,” Haslam said. “I thank all of the winners for their individual contributions to the environment and for keeping Tennessee a beautiful state in which to live and work and to visit.”
The Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Awards program recognizes exceptional voluntary actions that improve or protect our environment and natural resources with projects or initiatives not required by law or regulation. In its 31st year, this year’s awards program covers nine categories: Building Green; Clean Air, Energy and Renewable Resources; Environmental Education and Outreach; Environmental Education and Outreach (school category); Land Use; Materials Management; Natural Heritage; and Sustainable Performance.
“I applaud all who were nominated and those who won for working to protect our state’s natural resources in an efficient, sustainable way,” Martineau said. “Voluntary actions are crucial to safeguard and improve our natural environment.”
The 2017 Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Award recipients are:
- Belmont University – Davidson County
- Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority – Hamilton County
- City of Lebanon – Wilson County
- Keep Knoxville Beautiful – Knox County
- Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization – Knox County
- Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority – Davidson County
- Nashville Fire Department Station 19 – Davidson County
- New Hope Christian Academy – Shelby County
- Sherwood Forest Project – Davidson County
- Suttree Landing Park – Knox County
- The Nashville Food Project – Davidson County
The 2017 awards roster includes two Pursuit of Excellence Awards, which recognize past award winners who continue to demonstrate a high regard for environmental stewardship practices. The winner of one additional honor, the Robert Sparks Walker Lifetime Achievement Award, will be announced at the awards ceremony.
A panel of 22 professionals representing agricultural, conservation, forestry, environmental and academic professionals judged more than 89 nominations and selected this year’s award recipients based on criteria including on-the-ground achievement, innovation and public education. More information about the Awards can be found here:http://tn.gov/environment/topic/sp-gesa-governors-environmental-stewardship-awards.
Details about each award winner can be found below:
Category: Sustainable Performance
Winner: Belmont University, Davidson County
Belmont University’s R. Milton and Denice Johnson Center received its LEED Gold certification in April of 2016. This building is home to Belmont’s campus dining facility, the Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business, programs in Media Studies and a new major on campus, Motion Pictures. The 134,000 sq. ft. building sits atop a 1,000+ space parking garage. This parking garage and others on campus have free charging stations for electric vehicles and designated spaces for car/vanpool and fuel efficient vehicles. Two of the garages have been upgraded with LED lights and fixtures to cut both energy use and utility costs. The building also boasts a geothermal heating and cooling system and a composting operation. The heating and cooling system is expected to yield a savings of 40 percent in energy annually. The composting system converts food and cardboard waste into enriched soil additives through large dehydrators, which reduces overall waste from food operations. It also helps divert waste from landfills. The University has installed a stormwater run-off collection system that collects in underground storage tanks. The collection tank is one-third the size of an Olympic swimming pool and has allowed Belmont to utilize over 12 million gallons of reclaimed water for irrigation in 2016. Belmont now has three buildings on campus that are LEED certified and eight buildings that have been built with sustainable features. The University continues to take a comprehensive look at how they can be environmentally sensitive and be a leader in sustainability and environmental responsibility among universities.
Category: Clean Air
Winner: Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority, Hamilton County
The Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA), with funding provided by the Tennessee Valley Authority, launched an integrated public Level 2 charging and electric vehicle car share network along its existing public transit system. There are 56 charging stations across 20 locations and energy use is offset by three new solar power generators, with a combined capacity of 80kW. The total emissions reduction equaled 530 tons of CO2 with the implementation of this program. CARTA recognized the value in promoting multimodal travel solutions that can be integrated into the transit system. Electric charging and car share station sites were designed to coordinate with CARTA’s mainline bus and Electric Shuttle routes, Bike Chattanooga Bicycle Transit System locations and key downtown parking garages. Additionally, CARTA selected Green Commuter to launch the state’s first all-electric public car share system, with the initial deployment of 20 Nissan LEAFs in Chattanooga. These vehicles use the public charging stations and are maintained and sponsored by Green Commuter.
Category: Energy and Renewable Resources
Winner: City of Lebanon: Waste to Energy, Wilson County
The City of Lebanon has started operating a downdraft gasification plant at its wastewater treatment facility. The gasification initiative is the first in the nation and the largest downdraft gasifer in the world. The facility cost was a little over $3.5 million, diverting 8,000 tons (equivalent to a line of semi-trucks four miles long) of wood and sludge waste from the local landfill, and converting 36,000 Tennessee scrap rubber tires into energy annually. This will eliminate 2,500 tons of carbon emissions per year. The facility produces a leftover carbon-rich biochar that the city plans to sell to local farmers to fertilize crops as a potential new revenue stream. The plant also has the capacity to generate 1.8 million kilowatt-hours of electricity behind the meter, which has the ability to power 312 homes. In addition to gasification, Lebanon is taking steps to support the only commuter rail system in Middle Tennessee by installing one MW of solar arrays at both the water and wastewater treatment plant to offset the electrical costs, starting a pilot recycling program for residents, and continuing the conversion of city vehicles from fossil fuels to natural gas.
Category: Environmental Education and Outreach
Winner: Keep Knoxville Beautiful, Knox County
Keep Knoxville Beautiful (KKB), founded in 1978 to help clean up the city prior to the 1982 World’s Fair, is a locally-funded, non-profit, independent affiliate of Keep America Beautiful. In 2016, KKB accelerated their educational outreach programs by facilitating over 65 neighborhood, waterway and roadside cleanups, collecting over 36 tons of roadside waste and three tons of recyclables, and removing over 100 waste tires from roadsides and waterways. KBB facilitated and supported over 1,600 volunteers to work nearly 4,000 hours and mobilized their recycling trailer at seven public events. KKB reached nearly 400 students at 23 educational engagement presentations and presented as educational exhibitors at over 20 public events. KKB instituted four new programs in 2016 to engage more of the community. These programs include “Trash Runs”, which are geared toward rapid trash removal and the “Beautification Mobs” to create long-lasting visual enhancements to entrance corridors along interstates. KKB also bought a recycling trailer that provides an organized recycling receptacle for public events. The trailer is painted with mission specific messaging to facilitate education and outreach while providing a community service. KKB also added to their event list the Rocky Top Pickin’ Party, which is a fall fundraiser with local musicians.
Category: Pursuit of Excellence
Winner: Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization: Smart Trips, Knox County
Smart Trips provides an incentive-based reward program for businesses and commuters who choose to unburden the transportation system through various green trips, including telecommuting, ride-sharing, carpooling, biking, walking, bus and transit. The program collects data on historically not well-documented data of alternative transit trips. Enhanced reporting on alternative trips provides a more holistic view of the regional transit system in the Knoxville area and leads to enhancements for all roadway users. Relative to the affordability of gasoline and the increase in single occupancy vehicle trips, Smart Trips is experiencing an increase in active users, whose trip reporting indicates a rising trend in longer and more diverse trips. The program began in 2003 and grew exponentially in 2012 by adding over 1,000 registered commuters. To date they have had over 949,969 registered commuters logging multiple modes of commuting. Smart Trips users logged 17,908,426 miles in “alternative” commutes over the last six years, including carpool, vanpool, transit, bicycle, walking, telework and compressed workweeks. This represents 8,414,344 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions prevented as well as significant reductions of NOx, volatile organic compounds, particulate matter and other tailpipe air pollutants.
Category: Pursuit of Excellence
Winner: Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority, Davidson County
The Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority (MNAA) has continued to build on their core values of sustainability while having a visible impact to their 12.2 million visitors. MNAA has added compressed natural gas (CNG) shuttles and buses to their fleet. In 2016, MNAA saw an opportunity to use their limestone quarry to provide a water-source lake plate geothermal cooling system that would support the cooling load of the nearly 900,000 sq. ft. terminal building. MNAA rolled out 20 new CNG powered shuttles to service parking lots at the Nashville International Airport (BNA). These consist of 15, 24-passenger shuttles, two 29-passenger shuttles, and three 14-passenger shuttles. These shuttles join eight new BNA Express Park CNG powered shuttles that were put into service in June 2016. Based on an annual estimated consumption of 300,000 gallons of diesel, greenhouse gas emissions at the airport shuttle operations will be reduced by 14 percent. This equates to an annual reduction of 587 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. These improvements help the health and well-being of the public who flies in and out of the facilities as well as the employees and workers who support the aviation operations.
MNAA identified a way to harness the thermal properties of deep water which had accumulated over decades in an abandoned quarry on airport property. The $10.4 million cold deep water system is used to cool the entire terminal building, reduce the use of electricity, and reduce potable water consumption by providing irrigation means for airport landscaping.
Category: Building Green
Winner: Nashville Fire Department Station 19, Davidson County
Nashville Fire Department Station 19 is the first LEED Platinum certified fire station for new construction in the entire Southeast. The station’s eco-friendly design resulted in a 60 percent diversion of construction waste from a landfill, one-third less water use and a 44 percent reduction in energy costs. Fifteen percent of the building’s electricity use is provided by its 33kW solar panel array and 31 percent of all materials used were regionally manufactured or locally sourced, with 16 percent of the building materials being recycled. In 2016, Fire Station 19 saved over $11,000 in electricity costs compared to a comparable building, and generated nearly 39,000 kWh of solar energy. Lighting levels were optimized to provide only the required light needed in corridors, which led to a 41 percent reduction in lighting power density. Additionally, Fire Station 19 is sub-metered in real time. Every circuit in the facility is directly monitored for energy consumption on a second-to-second basis so problems can be detected immediately and city energy managers can respond accordingly.
Category: Environmental Education and Outreach
Winner: New Hope Christian Academy, Shelby County
New Hope Christian Academy’s students are actively learning environmental stewardship through several education programs including the school’s urban garden. The school addresses education as it relates to energy conservation measures, recycling and composting with outreach to students and their families to make them aware of how to care for the environment and sustainability both at home and school. In January 2016, the school had a “Bust the Energy Hog” campaign where classrooms were equipped with light switch plates reminding them to conserve energy and thermometers to monitor their room temperature. Classrooms were awarded with “Bacon Bucks” when they were discovered doing a good job. Each classroom has recycling bins and faculty is proactively working to become paper free by having students turn in assignments online and sending emails and texts to parents. Through the recycling program, the school recycled 15,000 pounds of paper and cardboard in 2016. New Hope collected over 300 bags of raked leaves from families last fall as well as food compost material from school meals. The material is used to enhance soil for the school’s urban farm, which they created from a nearby vacant lot. The urban farm is used as an outdoor classroom to teach students about plants and the food that comes from them. During the growing season, they have a Pay-What-You-Can-Veggie Stand, where parents can get organic foods at affordable prices. New Hope has two bee hives at the farm as well, where fifth grade students harvest the honey, bottle it, and sell it within the school community.
Category: Natural Heritage
Winner: Sherwood Forest Project, Davidson County
The Sherwood Forest Project has added 4,061 acres of high-quality forestland and critical habitat to the public land areas in the South Cumberland region. The project involved purchasing the additional acres from a private mining company. Funding was made available from the Land and Wildlife Conservation Fund, through the merit-based Forest Legacy Program, and implemented in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. The additional acreage was added to the approximately 41,000 acres of already protected forestland, including Bear Hollow Mountain Wildlife Management Area, Franklin State Forest, Carter State Natural Area, and Walls of Jericho State Natural Area. Acquisition of this land ensures the protection of habitats critical for federally-listed endangered, threatened or federal candidate species, including the endangered Morefield’s leather flower and the federally-threatened painted snake coiled forest snail. Additionally, two rare animals, the Eastern small-footed bat and Allegheny woodrat, are protected by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. These animals have been recorded on the property along with four-toed salamanders, barking tree frogs, and Rafinesque’s big-eared bat, which are state-protected animals. The 4,061-acre tract also contains the Griffin Shelter, which is the only excavated prehistoric rock art site in Tennessee. There are four panels of elaborate and deeply incised petroglyphs and artifacts used to carve the art and perform sacred activities. The project also protects over eight miles of stream and riparian habitat in the Guntersville Lake watershed, which are critical for protecting drinking water quality for the community of Sherwood.
Category: Land Use
Winner: Suttree Landing Park, Knox County
As you walk through Suttree Landing, Knoxville’s new downtown eight-acre linear park, it is hard to imagine that from the 1940s until 2004, this was an industrial site home to a bulk oil storage facility, a textile dying operation and an engine parts manufacturer. To facilitate this transformation, the City of Knoxville successfully negotiated a Brownfield Voluntary Agreement with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s Division of Remediation in 2010. Six years later, the city has a beautiful, multi-use riverfront park. This project illustrates that the conversion of a Brownfield site into an outdoor recreation space can be accomplished through strategic planning, partnerships, community involvement and active stakeholder involvement toward a common vision. The city applied for and received a $400,000 Community-Wide Brownfield Assessment Grant from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to assess properties along the waterfront. The collaborative effort between EPA, the City of Knoxville and TDEC identified 12 sites with significant redevelopment potential. Two of the sites were used for Suttree Landing Park. With the creation of the park came the connection of the Urban Wilderness in South Knoxville, a recreation, cultural and historic preservation initiative, incorporating 1,000 forested acres in and around the South Waterfront. The park contains a Riverwalk, two festival lawns, four overlook areas with seat walls and picnic tables, an ADA-accessible children’s playground, a put-in area for kayaks and canoes, and a surface parking lot for larger events. The park festival lawn has an irrigation system that pumps water from the river, reducing the need for potable water on site. Bioswales were installed to manage water runoff and tolerate periodic flooding. The Riverwalk consists of a six-foot wide soft surface running trail, a five-foot furnishing zone composed of bike racks, benches, and lighting, and a 12-foot hard surface, and a multi-use path for bicyclists and pedestrians.
Category: Materials Management
Winner: The Nashville Food Project, Davidson County
The Nashville Food Project is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to bring people together to grow, cook and share nourishing food, with the goals of cultivating community and alleviating hunger in Nashville. This is critical work as 17 percent of Tennessee residents do not have enough food to sustain a healthy lifestyle. In 2016, The Nashville Food Project recovered more than 120,000 pounds of edible healthy surplus food from local farms, grocers and restaurants. With the majority of the food used in their Meals Program, they were able to provide more than 3,100 meals to vulnerable communities each week. These weekly meals are shared in partnership with more than 27 local nonprofits. The Nashville Food Project strives for maximum sustainability throughout their meals programs by sharing meals in compostable clamshell containers. Meals are supplemented with local, sustainably-grown food and they dedicate a portion of their food budget to their local farmer investment expenditure. Purchasing produce from local farmers supports the farmer, the farmer’s sustainable practices and the local economy. Any food that is not fit for human consumption is fed to The Nashville Food Project’s flock of urban chickens or added to their compost system. This in turn supports their production gardens, which produced over 6,200 pounds of organically-grown produce for meals in 2016. The Nashville Food Project’s four community gardens provide land, resources and training to empower 100 low-income families, immigrants and refugees to support their families’ food and financial needs. They are actively working towards a system of zero food waste.
by Patricia Bing, St. Luke's Community House Family Resource Center Director
On any day of the week, you can walk into the kitchen at St. Luke’s and be greeted with a smile and warm hello in the midst of all of the hustle and bustle that takes place when over 200 meals are being prepared for the day. This warm and inviting atmosphere is just one reflection of the great partnership that has been established between St. Luke’s and The Nashville Food Project.
The partnership between the two organization began in March of 2016, sprouting from two separate places- St. Luke’s need to provide quality and nutritious food to our clients, and The Nashville Food Project’s desire to begin a social enterprise. After being connected with one another, talks ensued, and that, as they say, was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
The Nashville Food Project now provides food for two programs at St. Luke’s. The first being our Senior Services program, that provides freshly prepared lunches that are delivered to seniors in their homes Monday through Friday and meals for our weekly senior activities. The second program is our preschool, for which The Nashville Food Project prepares breakfast, lunch, and snack daily.
There was a period where we had to transition the participants of both programs to the new menus and foods they were now being served. The Nashville Food Project did a great job of finding compromises that mixed in the foods clients were used to being served with healthier alternatives. The communication between the two organizations was essential to a successful partnership. The Nashville Food Project did, and still does, an excellent job of making sure they understand what both our seniors and children like and want. They talk to the teachers. Seniors are polled and asked questions, and they are always open to any idea or suggestions that may come from the St. Luke’s staff.
At St. Luke’s we recognize that food is a vehicle. It is a way to educate, bring people together, and help us discover what other needs the members of our community may have. Through this partnership, we are able to not only introduce nutritious foods to our clients, but it gives us an opportunity to educate them on why it is healthy and what other healthy food options may be out there.
We have heard stories from individuals about how this change in their diet has improved their quality of life. One of our seniors let us know that since switching to the healthier meals, her blood pressure is lower, blood sugar is better controlled and she has lost 8 pounds. Today, I walked into a classroom of two-year olds during lunch time and they could not get enough of the salad, green beans, and spaghetti they were eating. Most had abandoned their forks in favor of their hands to make sure they got every delicious bite.
There is now a positive energy that surrounds the preparation, delivery, and consumption of the food that is pure joy to witness. These examples truly show what a success the partnership between St. Luke’s Community House and The Nashville Food Project has been and will continue to be.
Its lunchtime on a Thursday; which, means it’s time to load the truck up and hit the road. The destination: John Glenn and Peggy Ann Alsup Arbors Residential Center. John Glenn is a part of National Church Residences which provides housing for seniors with low incomes who meet the criteria set by HUD.
When first entering this community, you are greeted with a warm welcome, in the form of a smile, wave, or “Thank You for being here.” Later in the day, one receives more kind words, jokes that turn into laughter, and hugs that turn into friendship. So much so, that the usual one hour lunch run called for more. We decided to add music, games, and fellowship to the mix, turning it into a fun Community Day.
The Nashville Food Project has been serving a weekly lunch for the residents of John Glenn since 2013. Since then, we’ve built deep relationships with the community, and we’ve watched as they have done the same. What began four years ago as residents of two disconnected buildings has become a thriving community where the men and women interact like family. When one wonders what we mean when we say that nourishing food cultivates community, look no further than the incredible community at John Glenn.
On our recent Community Day, we had a balloon race, tunes from Earth Wind and Fire, and a room full of participants in a fun game. The music even led to shaking and dancing. To top it off, this day was a part of National Volunteer Appreciation Week at The Nashville Food Project. Thursday was marked as Backwards Day, and John Glenn Residents decided to join in on the fun. Almost everyone was in backwards clothing! This excitement led to an even greater afternoon.
An hour of sharing the meal and joking around wasn’t enough. Nonetheless, we packed up and headed back to TNFP, leaving John Glenn until the next week. We left with handshakes, hugs, smiles, and “come back soon.”
We’ve joined this community as more than a meal partner. We feel a part of a family that welcomes us to the cookout every Thursday afternoon. Thank you for welcoming us, folks!
On an unseasonably hot and sunny day in April, I stand in the aisle between two newly shaped beds of a Growing Together farmer. We’ve been spending the last two weeks attempting to till the soil, but have been successfully thwarted by erratic weather that left the earth too wet to till. On this day, we are met with a window of opportunity to finish turning the soil on the remaining beds of farmers. Thomas, a grower originally from Burma, appears in a dress shirt, slacks, and loafers. He hasn’t had time to till his plot as he was balancing a recent acceptance to attend school to learn to become an electrician, along with supporting his family. He explains his circumstance, then rolls up his sleeves and begins to use the tractor to finish tilling his plot, no time to be wasted getting changed.
I watch as he turns over the soil in the hot sun, and think of the other circumstances of the growers in our market garden, considering the complicated decisions and challenges these Growing Together farmers face. For some, this challenge may manifest in the difficulty of acquiring health insurance in an inaccessible system. For others, it may come in the form of taking a citizenship test. No matter the challenge, it always adds to the already great responsibility of being a farmer.
Farming is an art that inherently requires resilience. One must not only learn to be flexible, but also prepared, ready to consider factors ranging from seasonality to weather. However, the farmers of the Growing Together program demonstrate an unbelievable amount of resilience. Not only must they go through the complicated process of resettlement into a new country (a process that is continuous and ongoing), but they must also strike a delicate balance between their work and family life all the while maintaining a commitment to growing food in a new climate with differing conditions for farming.
The resiliency of the farmers in the Growing Together program has been made readily apparent in the three seasons of the program’s life.Three of the eight growers have been with the program since the beginning, but all of the farmers, regardless of the length of their participation, have shared their personal growth and important life events with the program. We have watched growers celebrate new accomplishments, acquire new jobs, have children, and mourn the passing of a close family member. In my time with the Growing Together program, I’ve learned that while there is a commitment to growing greens or chilies or market skills, there is a greater commitment to growing a community, one that is filled with strength, support, and the perseverance to foster growth. Even when it requires tilling in loafers.
Amid cooking club, homework help, reading intervention, book club, fitness time, and the hum of many more activities, the elementary through high-school aged students at Preston Taylor Ministries’ (PTM) after-school program gather two times each week over a snack prepared by The Nashville Food Project (TNFP). It may be as simple as carrot sticks and fruit salad, or a healthy spin on traditional snacks like pizza with hummus or vegetable chips, yet these snacks have made a big impact at PTM.
“Not only have our students been more open to trying new foods, but we see a better attitude, more even energy and well balanced moods on TNFP snack days,” says Lisa Lentz, director of PTM’s programs at their St. Luke’s Community House site.
The almost 80 students involved in this program are engaged in SPARK (Sport-Play-Active-Recreation-for-Kids), a program designed to promote daily activity and healthy living for youth during after-school time. TNFP’s twice per week snacks fit squarely alongside this mission. These snacks offer a more nutritious alternative to the high sugar/simple carb processed snacks that PTM was serving before partnering with TNFP, supporting balanced energy levels and providing opportunities for the students to experience new, healthy foods.
As Lisa goes on to say, as staff “it's always an adventure getting kids to try new things”, but “teaching and practicing healthy snacking is a big part of what we do with our students. At first, it was a challenge but gradually they have learned that all they need to do is take one bite and then make a decision.”
Further, these snacks promote relationship building between the students and PTM staff while enhancing what they are learning through the SPARK program. PTM staff are often the first ones to try the snack, poking into the TNFP pans to see what creative snack is on the day’s menu.
TNFP also prepares a hot, made-from-scratch meal for PTM’s quarterly community suppers, providing an opportunity for students, families, and staff to share a nutritious meal together. Students prepare the room when programming is over, putting out chairs and setting tables as the space is filled with a growing excitement. Music is turned on and students begin dancing as they wait eagerly for their families to arrive.
“Eating together just takes the relationship between our staff and families to a deeper level. Conversation can slow down because they aren't rushing out the door and topics can meander off the daily grind to a more personal nature” says Lisa. Over the course of the year, this program has grown steadily, from 45 people at the first supper to 120 at the last!
In partnership with Preston Taylor Ministries, The Nashville Food Project provides twice weekly snacks and quarterly suppers for PTM’s after-school program. Yet, these seemingly small additions of nutritious food, have had big impact on the students, the staff, and the families of PTM, supporting healthy living and building relationships over the simple act of good food.
One things we like to say around here at The Nashville Food Project is that we believe that we live in a world of abundance. A world where there is enough to go around - enough farmable land to grow nourishing food for our city, enough hard-working hands to do incredible work and enough food to feed everyone in our community.
We know that 40% of all food produced in our country is thrown away, but we also know that it doesn’t have to be that way. Last year, we began working with the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to ramp up our food recovery efforts. They shared with us a food waste pyramid that has helped guide us in determining how best to use all of our food resources as we work towards a system of zero waste.
The first and most important step is to avoid generating food waste in general. With that in mind, we’ve gotten even more creative in how we use up every last bit of the food that we have. A great example of this is our partnership with our neighbors at Green Hills Grille. On their menu is a great salmon filet, but we all know that a side of salmon doesn’t come beautifully square shaped naturally. In order to get that pretty portion, the restaurant cuts off all of the trimmings, but instead of just throwing them away, they freeze them and bring us those trimmings each week. We cook them up and use them for meals like our delicious salmon patties. That ensures that all of that food goes to the NRDC’s second most recommended use of food - to feed people in need.
As we’ve increased our food recovery efforts, though, we’ve realized that we can’t always use all of our recovered food before it perishes, and some of it just doesn’t meet the needs of our meal guests. So we began building a network of partners who can take this excess food and use it in their own programs.
One such partner is Renewal House, a nonprofit that provides long-term, comprehensive treatment programs serving women affected by addiction and their children. Each week, we share healthy food with the women participating in Renewal House’s family residential program, stocking refrigerators so that the mothers have good food to prepare for their children. We now have 11 of these partners with whom we share our excess food, ensuring that none of it goes to waste.
Still there are times when we get food that is no longer appropriate for human consumption so we went back to the pyramid to determine the best and highest use for it. The next NRDC recommendation is to use food waste for animal feed. We raise chickens in our Wedgewood Urban Garden so naturally, much of our excess food has become chicken feed, and we must say that it has resulted in some very happy, healthy chickens!
What we can’t share in our meals, with our food sharing partners or with our chickens is then composted. That food contributes to creating wonderful potting soil that feeds our gardens, which, of course, produce even more healthy food. It’s an incredible cycle that we’ve loved seeing come together.
We are constantly exploring new ways to make the best and highest use of every bit of food that comes through our doors. Slowly but surely, we’re doing our best to reduce our own food waste and to help our city as it works to do the same. If you’re interested in learning how you can reduce your own family’s food waste, we urge you to visit savethefood.com to find great recipes and resources to get you started.
Today is International Women’s Day, a global day that celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Beyond that, this year’s theme for this day is #BeBoldForChange, something we at The Nashville Food Project work towards every day using the power of good food.
In honor of International Women’s Day, we are celebrating one of the incredible women we work with in our community gardens. Ifeoma Scott and her husband have been growing in our Wedgewood Neighbors Garden since last year after hearing about it from their friends Jay and former Meals Assistant Makisha, or Kiki as Ifeoma calls her, at Mt. Zion Church.
Ifeoma had long been a container gardener, but she wanted a chance to grow in the ground, directly in the dirt. Beyond that, she wanted to be active with other gardeners. “Because of where I live - it’s an urban area - I don’t have the chance to interact with many gardeners. This was my first time interacting with other gardeners besides my uncle who lives in Illinois. It was really important for me to get involved and to see how others grew their food.”
The comradery of growing food was extremely important to Ifeoma. For her, growing food is a family affair so personal connection and gardening go hand in hand. Her great grandfathers were farmers - in Mississippi and Arkansas, and her fraternal grandfather grew plots in his backyard in Illinois, practicing urban gardening before we even had the term.
“For me, it’s not only sustainability, but it’s part of my history. I wish I had [my grandfathers] to ask them questions…Farming is a hard job, but my great grandfather [who farmed in Mississippi] made it look so easy.”
Ifeoma has loved learning more about her family and herself in the garden. “I get to learn, see, be patient. I’ve never been a patient person until I started gardening, but I can’t just make something grow. I have to be patient.”
Since growing in the Wedgewood Neighbors Garden, Ifeoma has reignited a curiosity about all the small things that come together to grow food. “I get excited about seeing animals and things in the garden - insects and worms - and how that really helps the garden and how it functions,” she tells us. Always looking to learn, Ifeoma has become most interested in growing heirloom varieties, and she’s challenged herself to successfully grow lettuce for the first time this year.
She’s also learned about other cultures growing alongside refugee gardeners from Bhutan and Burma. In college, Ifeoma studied international business so she’s always been interested in other cultures, but in the garden she’s had the opportunity to see it all first-hand. “I just like seeing how different people garden and seeing the different plots. How they’re using natural structures to trellis. That type of thing excites me - seeing how people do it differently.”
Ifeoma has enjoyed creating a sustainable food source for herself, her husband and their friends. Now she’s learning to compost and hopes to take on canning next so she can continue to share her garden-grown food with her friends and family.
She says it’s important for people to understand where their food comes from. It can be easy to take for granted the time and effort that so many people put into producing our food.
“You don’t realize how important food is, and people who give their lives to do this. To farm. To give us the food we have on our tables. It means so much more than just putting things in the dirt. It’s the history of my family and what I’ll do for my children someday.”
Want to keep in touch with Ifeoma and what she's growing? Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @Yepshegrewit.
Evidence has shown that the more parents get involved in their children’s’ lives, the better the children learn, behave and develop. The Nashville Food Project’s newest meal partnership supports programming that invites immigrant families into schools to feel at home in these spaces, in order to connect and engage with their children’s education.
Earlier this year The Nashville Food Project began a new partnership with Alignment Nashville, an initiative to improve the education and health of Nashville’s youth by providing tools that bring the community together for more effective results than we could each accomplish alone. One example is a weekly community night with the goal of Linking, Empowering and Advancing Families - LEAF. Held each Wednesday at Wright Middle School, these LEAF Community Nights allow families to meet over dinner - prepared by The Nashville Food Project - and get connected with community resources. Adults can attend community workshops and ESL classes, while their children receive other enrichment opportunities.
Through this partnership, The Nashville Food Project is sharing a weekly meal that brings immigrant families together to build a community around their children, one that is welcoming and supports youth in their education and development.
This meal has also been an opportunity to connect two of our partners with similar missions. Similar to the LEAF Community Nights, the Oasis Center’s International Teen Outreach Program (ITOP) supports immigrant, refugee and first generation American teens, providing a safe setting for these youth to explore and engage American culture. One aspect of ITOP is building community connection through volunteerism.
For more than six years, ITOP participants have volunteered with The Nashville Food Project monthly, sharing a meal from our food trucks or volunteering in our gardens, and now they share this meal with families who are not so different from their own.
Working with our partners at Alignment Nashville and the Oasis Center has provided an opportunity to bring immigrant children, teens and families together to have a real impact on the lives of each of these partners and our community. The Nashville Food Project believes that when we all come together in community, transformational change can happen, and we look forward to seeing how this new partnership transforms our community for the better!
It’s a warm day in early October at the Nashville Farmer’s Market, I’m sitting at our table, assisting customers and rearranging the produce as the hours pass. The crowd has just picked up, and I observe some curious onlookers eye the assortment of unique vegetables on our table: from spikey bitter gourds to long, curling beans.
It’s just Thomas Piang and me; Thomas is a farmer originally from Myanmar working in the Growing Together program. We’ve so far spent our time talking about Burma/Myanmar in between helping customers. I curiously ask him about spiritual practices and the environment of his home country, he tells me briefly about the unrest in Burma/Myanmar, touching on military rule and government dysfunction.
We break in conversation as an enthusiastic regular customer approaches our table. Smiling, he shakes Thomas’ hand and looks at our selection before deciding on a bunch of red yardlong beans and bag of arugula. He turns back to Thomas, “So, you’re from Burma, right?” he pauses and looks down, “Ah, I’m so sorry! I meant Myanmar.” Thomas smiles and nods and the two engage in a short conversation. A few minutes later, the customer gathers his things and says goodbye to Thomas, “Well, so glad to see you. Again, thanks for everything”.
Thomas’ story of coming to America, although personally unique, reflects circumstances similar to those of our other farmers. As a program, we predominately work with individuals originally from Bhutan, Burma/Myanmar, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, countries with histories of civil unrest and ethnic or religious persecution. Although all of the farmers we work with represent unique ethnic and cultural communities, they all share an agrarian background and passion for growing food. However, access to land and resources in an urban area with many neighborhoods relegated as “food deserts” can prove be difficult.
This is where Growing Together comes into the picture. It is our goal to not only provide technical assistance by offering land and tools for the families we work with, but also to help foster community and ultimately promote food sovereignty in those communities.
Food is culturally universal, and the ability to grow one’s food, and have access to items that are culturally relevant is of incredible importance. Having access to familiar produce can not only help to maintain the strength of cultural communities, especially to those engaged in the ongoing process of resettling in a new country, but it also invites others to learn more about people or cuisine they deem unfamiliar.
I realize now that the interaction between Thomas and the customer at the market was more than just a conversation. Rather, it was a metaphor for what we hope is born out of the Growing Together program: the building of community both within and outside of cultural boundaries. Food is more often than not the catalyst for these interactions, and, in my opinion, nothing breaks the ice better than discussing how to cook komatsuna.
This article was written by Krysten Cherkaski. Krysten has been with the Nashville Food Project since August 2016 supporting the Growing Together Program. She comes to us from Fresno, California and is currently a Belle H. Bennett fellow with the Scarritt Bennett Center.
Five days a week, the office of Project Return, a nonprofit organization situated near a downtown bus line with views of the Nashville skyscape, hums with the purposeful activity of men and women determined to gain employment after returning from incarceration. For three full days, they participate in Project Return’s job readiness program, attending classes on topics such as money management and computer literacy and receiving individualized support on resume building and mock interviews. All the while, Project Return works diligently to support these individuals in securing employment, an often difficult task for those with a felony conviction, but one necessary to building a full and free life after incarceration.
These individuals face seemingly insurmountable barriers. For many returning to society, systemic poverty rears its head in many ways – hunger, unemployment, homelessness, social stigma, transportation, and often isolation. This means that commitment and intention towards gaining employment requires a vast array of simultaneous wraparound services.
At The Nashville Food Project, we know that hunger is an immediate, and often critical need for many vulnerable residents of Nashville. And we know that it is often only one of the many burdens of poverty our neighbors face. In partnership with Project Return, The Nashville Food Project provides two lunch time meals each week for the job readiness program participants.
This week, participants in the program will come together around a communal table during the lunch break to share a beef and broccoli stir fry, garden salad with homemade dressings, and fresh fruit, each component of which was thoughtfully and creatively repurposed for these hardworking individuals.
These meals meet an immediate need faced by many in this program – hunger. And more, as Executive Director of Project Return Bettie Kirkland claims, as “we rally our efforts to propelling people into employment, these meals are literally fuel for the job! It's hard to be an effective job seeker if you're hungry and you're worried about where you'll get your next meal. [Knowing] they're going to leave here with a full stomach frees up brain space for the information we're giving to them.”
Further, The Nashville Food Project seeks to alleviate hunger and cultivate community, knowing that food provides nourishment, healing and belonging when shared together. As our food truck pulls up to Project Return each week, we are setting a place at a communal table where all are welcome.
In the face of what daily feels like unlimited need, The Nashville Food Project begins each new partnership in our meals program strategically, not only sharing good food, but asking, “how can good food support the work already happening in your community?” Through our meal partnerships, TNFP uses the food we grow and recover, the power of human labor, and the spirit of collaboration to disrupt cycles of poverty in Nashville.
In addition to Project Return, we work in collaboration with 26 other nonprofit organizations such as The Contributor, Operation Stand Down, GANG (Gentlemen And Not Gangsters), and Begin Anew, among many others. As we share these meals, we believe in the power of these partnerships to alleviate hunger, bring people together, and transform communities.
With the addition of several new meal partnerships, 2016 was a year of unprecedented growth in our meals program! We opened a second kitchen at St. Luke’s Community House, doubled our meals production, nearly tripled our food recovery efforts and added a total of FIVE new positions to our meals team!
We can’t talk about changes in our meals program without starting with our biggest change - in March of 2016, we opened our second kitchen site at St. Luke’s Community House. This was an exciting opportunity to double our meals outputs while building a solid relationship with a new partner in St. Luke’s. We completed a minor renovation of the kitchen, adjusting the layout and bringing in new equipment and shelving to maximize the space and ensure that we worked efficiently while producing the healthiest meals possible.
Volunteer extraordinaire Ann Fundis led the opening of the new kitchen and worked tirelessly to get the kitchen up and running until permanent staff, Kelli Johnson and Sarah Morgan, were hired. We were able to expand our volunteer opportunities and add new morning prep times to support the kitchen. Thanks to an amazing team of HCA volunteers, we also built and initiated a robust new compost system at St. Luke’s to utilize any food waste generated by the kitchen. Through all these efforts, we’ve been able to provide more than 100 preschoolers and seniors with more high-quality fruits and vegetables five days a week.
Determined to make a real difference in the amount of usable food entering our city’s waste stream, we created the new position of Food Donations Coordinator. In the role, Booth Jewett, has strengthened partnerships with local farmers, grocers and markets to nearly triple the amount of food we recovered from 2015 to 2016. This has provided more than $150,000 of food to support our meals program while keeping costs down.
In addition to recovering more food, Booth has also initiated partnerships with 11 nonprofits to share excess donated food. These partners use this food in their own kitchens and stock client refrigerators, ensuring even more have reliable access to fresh food.
In our South Hall kitchen, we’ve also seen incredible growth, hiring new Meals Manager Christa Ross and Meals Assistant Kathleen Costello. This new staffing helped us increase South Hall meals outputs from just over 1,000 each week in 2015 to more than 1,300 each week in 2016. We added additional volunteer prep times, re-arranged the prep space and created new systems to make our work more efficient and ensure that we are making the best use of every resource we have!
In 2016, our garden program grew from three garden sites to five, and we became more intentional about the way we use these sites to grow both nourishing food and community.
In the spring, we partnered with the Center for Refugees and Immigrants of Tennessee to launch the Growing Together market garden program, supporting nine refugee farmers in growing and selling produce through a booth at the Nashville Farmers’ Market, wholesale sales to restaurants and through an online food hub. In the fall, we fully integrated this program and the Refugee Agriculture Partnership Program’s two community gardens into our existing operations.
Through this expansion, we’ve also grown our garden-based adult education program, offering weekly and monthly training opportunities to diverse groups of adults who participate in community and market gardens.
We began thinking about the program as an urban agriculture program with three distinct types of gardens: production gardens, community gardens and a market garden.
Our staffing reflected growing program needs in 2016. We welcomed Lauren Bailey, previously Director of Agriculture Program at CRIT, as Growing Together (market garden) Manager. Former Garden Coordinator Kia Brown has transitioned into the role of Community Garden Manager to support TNFP’s four community garden sites. Former Garden Manager Christina Bentrup has transitioned to Garden Director to provide long-term leadership of the program. We are currently hiring a Production Garden Manager to provide technical assistance to all gardens and care for ecosystem components.
The Nashville Food Project has always been an organization powered by the work of so many incredible community volunteers. In 2016 YOU helped us do more than ever before! Check out this Top Ten list of our 2016 volunteer program accomplishments:
10. We piloted an online volunteer sign-in system at our South Hall kitchen. As we continue to refine the program, we’ve loved the positive attitudes and helpful feedback we’ve received from volunteers. Our goal is to make volunteering an easy and fun experience from start to finish.
9. We welcomed a new Volunteer Coordinator, Mariah Ragland! Mariah joined the team to coordinate all volunteer activities and promote The Nashville Food Project to new groups of volunteers. It’s been wonderful to see volunteers embrace Mariah and work with her to continue improving The Nashville Food Project’s volunteer experience.
8. In addition to opening our second kitchen in partnership with St. Luke’s Community House in March, we added 10 new weekly volunteer opportunities to support the production of those meals. With your help we’ve been able to serve 1,330 meals a week to a new community!
7. We welcomed many new community and corporate partners as volunteers. New partners like Clyde’s On Church and Taco Mamacita have become regular volunteers. Existing partners like Jackson National Life Insurance have increased their volunteer efforts, helping us to continue to grow our work.
6. As our urban agriculture program expanded, so did volunteer opportunities in our new gardens! In 2016, we added ongoing volunteer activities in the McGruder Community Garden, Blackman Road Garden and Haywood Lane Garden.
5. On December 30 and 31st, volunteers helped us collect food and monetary donations at back-to-back Widespread Panic shows at Bridgestone arena. During these two nights, we collected almost $5,000 and 200 pounds of food to support our programs!
4. We implemented a new way to highlight our incredibly dedicated volunteers with a Volunteer of the Month recognition. Each month, our staff submits names of volunteers who have gone above and beyond typical volunteer activities. One outstanding volunteer is selected to be featured in our kitchens the following month. We love having another way to thank and recognize the many people who make our work possible.
3. While we’re so grateful for our dedicated, regular volunteers, we were excited to welcome many new faces in 2016! Organization-wide, each month an average of 370 unique volunteers served in our kitchens, in our gardens and on our food trucks.
2. The year kicked off in a big way when we were invited to recover food from a meat conference hosted at Gaylord Opryland Hotel. A group of 15 volunteers joined TNFP staff for a crazy night of sorting, packing, and storing more than 11,000 pounds of meat. This supplied our TNFP meals with meat from February through October, feeding more than 70,000 in our community!
1. We truly are blown away by the support of our community as we worked to nourish our city in 2016. Looking back on the year, we’re thrilled to say that 7,047 volunteers gave a total of 17,967 hours of volunteer service to The Nashville Food Project! The US Bureau of Labor Statistics values an hour of volunteer time at $23.56, meaning that TNFP volunteers gave a value of $423,303 of time to our community. Thank you!
Thanks to the support of our incredible community, in 2016 The Nashville Food Project shared more food than ever before! Through a new partnership with St. Luke’s Community House and the addition of eight new meal partners, we doubled our annual meals production from 50,000 to 16 partners in 2015 to over 114,000 to 23 partners in 2016!
In 2016, we increased our food recovery efforts, recovering over 108,000 pounds of food that would otherwise be thrown away. About one quarter of all recovered food was shared with new partner organizations. These partners used the food in their own kitchens and helped stock refrigerators for their residents and clients. This ensured that even more families had reliable access to fresh, healthy food.
Earlier this month, The Nashville Food Project was invited to participate in an exciting event with state and local partners, including the Nashville Farmers’ Market, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) and Metro Nashville Public Works, among others.
The event, called “Save the Food,” included a screening of the 2014 documentary “Just Eat It,” a funny, entertaining look into food waste at various points in the food system, from farm, production, and retail, all the way to the home fridge. The film was accompanied by a delicious meal prepared by our innovative Meals Team. The dinner we served—a vegetarian chili with all the fixings—was made with rescued food, including an apple ginger tea, made by steeping apple peels and ginger in hot water.
The event was part of a larger effort to reduce food waste in Nashville, led by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). To learn more about how to reduce food waste in Nashville and across our country, please visit www.savethefood.com.
Earlier this year, a kind and generous member of our community reached out to us with an unexpected, creative idea. Joe Hodgson had learned about the work we are doing to cultivate community and alleviate hunger in Nashville and wanted to get involved.
Joe has a love for apples, particularly heirloom varieties of apples that are hard to find in grocery stores. As he nears retirement and prepares to turn over his landscape architecture business, Joe says he wants to put his love for apples and fresh food into action! He's in the process of purchasing land near the Cumberland Plateau, where he plans to plant an orchard and donate the apples to The Nashville Food Project.
But in the years leading up to the production of this orchard vision, Joe has made a commitment to visiting a local family orchard on the plateau and buying apples that he then donates to our kitchens, landing him the affectionate title of “our Apple Guy” around here. Joe’s generosity is extraordinary! Fresh fruit is one of the most expensive things that we regularly buy for our meals, and it is rarely donated. In both of our kitchens, we try to include fresh fruit with most of our meals.
Joe’s creative donation has brought more innovation into our kitchens! With just one recent donation, our volunteers have already made these delicious, nutritious treats:
We send a big thanks to Joe, our Apple Guy, for the incredible, creative way he is supporting the work of The Nashville Food Project!
Grow, cook and share. These three activities anchor our mission at The Nashville Food Project. The work of all three is connected, and when done in ways that intentionally bring people together, as our organization aims to do, this work has the power to create real and lasting change in a community.
The Nashville Food Project’s work to grow, cook, and share is supported by a list of food donating partners, many of them local farmers and growers. On the blog today we want to introduce some of our farmer friends and tell you more about our partnership with each:
Bill and Mary Ruth Lane at Lookin’ Up Farm are longtime supporters of The Nashville Food Project. They have been donating their fresh produce to our meals program for five years, but beginning early summer 2016, we began to explore how we could better support their work and begin a true partnership.
Now, once each month, Food Donations Coordinator Booth and a team of volunteers head out to Bon Aqua, TN to volunteer at the farm. There, Bill and Mary Ruth have a 150’ x 150’ garden, as well as many fruit trees, from which nearly all of what is grown is donated to The Nashville Food Project and other local nonprofits serving low-income communities. Booth and the volunteers help with weeding, planting and harvesting, and they bring harvested food back to The Nashville Food Project to be incorporated into our meals. Lookin’ Up supports our meals with a great variety of produce. Highlights include:
The Giving Garden
Started by Franklin First United Methodist Church, the folks at The Giving Garden grow food on the land that will eventually become the church’s new home. They have plenty of land to share and now have a group of dedicated volunteers who farm that land and give away 100% of what they grow to people and organizations who value fresh produce and serve people in need. We’ve helped connect their volunteers with incredible organizations to receive some of this food, and they have donated beautiful over-wintered spinach and other produce to our meals program.
This summer alone, longtime food donor Hank Delvin and the folks at Delvin Farms have donated thousands of pounds of Yukon gold potatoes, watermelons and yellow squash. As they’ve ramped up their food donations, we’ve also stepped up our support of their work. In fact, we have an upcoming opportunity for you to get involved!
We’ll be at Delvin helping out Hank and the gang later this week on Thursday, October 20th. They are swimming in green beans and told us that we could have anything that we could pick. We don’t turn down an offer like that! We’ll blanche them, roast them and incorporate them into casseroles! If you’d like to help out, please contact Booth at email@example.com.
On a recent Saturday the Wedgewood Neighbors Community garden teamed up with the McGruder Green Thumbers Community garden for their Summer Harvest Potluck Celebration. These celebrations are held at the end of each season (spring, summer, and fall) as a way to toast the previous season, share accomplishments, and show other gardeners how they prepare their harvest.
This season’s event at McGruder celebrated more than just a successful summer growing season. The United Way Family Resource Center welcomed a new lead agency and several new nonprofit partners to better serve its North Nashville community. We opened up the celebration and invited The Nashville Food Project staff, the entire staff at the McGruder Family Resource Center, as well as The Little Pantry that Could participants.
It was a great way for our community gardeners to welcome the new organizations in the building while also showing off their amazing garden. The grill was hot, the food was flowing, and there were plenty of laughs to go around as people shared picnic tables and stories of either their gardening adventures or humorous attempts
Chef Hal Holden-Bache of Lockeland Table has been cooking with love in his heart since at least age 8. That’s when he began giving his “hard-working mother some time off,” he says. “I enjoyed cooking more than I did my homework. She allowed me to do that.”
He also realized he liked to cook because he liked to eat. “At some point in time you gotta learn to feed yourself,” he says.
The love--and independence--that comes along with learning to cook was a theme important to both Holden-Bache and Lockeland'sPastry Chef Jaime Miller. The two chefs visited The Nashville Food Project this year as volunteers.
Jaime, a chef-participant in TNFP's first RISE event last December, took an interest in hospitality as a way to find freedom in life. She wanted to be on her own at age 15. So, she graduated high school early and found work in restaurants as soon as she could. But even as she sought independence, the experiences helped her appreciate family. “It made me realize how talented my mom was,” she says.
At The Nashville Food Project, Miller and Holden-Bache’s experience and talent showed as they floated effortlessly around the kitchen to prepare a gourmet meal for 75 men and women who reside at the John Glenn Residential Center in North Nashville.
The ingredients for their meal had been gleaned or donated from at least six different sources. Miller worked on a sheet pan of cubed sweet potatoes from Delvin Farms laced with kale that had been donated from a local catered event. She added apple gleaned from Whole Foods Market along with raisins and garlic before drizzling it with honey and slipping it into the oven.
Meanwhile, Holden-Bache prepped pork loin and pancetta donated earlier this year after a meat conference at Gaylord Opryland Hotel. He flavored the pork with onion, mushroom and sherry from TNFP cupboards.
The community effort that is cooking in the TNFP kitchens was a perfect match for these talented chefs.
Community, after all, is a word that’s important to both Holden-Bache and Miller. They begin dinner service at the restaurant each night with Community Hour, a play on Happy Hour that offers a portion of proceeds from specially priced drinks and small plates to local causes.
Holden-Bache preferred “community table” over “café or restaurant” when naming his place. Because in thinking about feeding Nashville, he wanted to say: “We’re here for you.”
And he also says he felt drawn to the word community while reading TNFP’s mission statement: Bringing people together to grow, cook and share nourishing food, with the goals of cultivating community and alleviating hunger in our city.
“Food should be something we’re all able to do,” he says both in terms of access and preparation. He’s careful not to take it for granted by working to reduce food waste at the restaurant, to give back when he can and to reflect on his good fortune when he enjoys a meal.
“This is so good,” he recalled saying between bites to a friend recently, “We’re lucky, man.”
This week The Nashville Food Project will share more than double the meals we served this week last year! In a "normal" week (we're always figuring out what that means), we’re currently sharing 3,000 delicious, nutritious meals and snacks each week as compared to 1,200 weekly meals only a year ago. This growth is the result of adding a second kitchen to our ranks, increasing meal prep opportunities for volunteers and the smart-working instinct and intellect of our meals team. But it's also due in large part to an intentional transition in the way that many of our meals are shared.
While our volunteers still share many of our meals in parking lots alongside our food trucks, now roughly 2,200 of the meals and snacks we make each week are delivered to and served by our community partners. Of these 2,200 meals, roughly 900 are prepared in our South Hall kitchen by incredible volunteers and then loaded into our food trucks to be delivered to our meal distribution partners by our staff. The nonprofit partner handles the coordination and facilitation of sharing the meal with its clients and in its community.
This change was made in response to the needs expressed by our community partners. Many came to us with the same problem and asked us how we might be of the solution: They knew that offering a meal or some food for their clients and communities would improve participation and engagement in their programs, but lacking the time and know-how, many were spending their precious resources on pizza and fast food. These partners wanted a way to strengthen their programs with food they would be proud to serve. At the same time, we at The Nashville Food Project were actively looking for ways to broaden the impact of our meals, so that they might come alongside some other kinds of work and programming to alleviate the burdens of being poor.
A significant change in our meals structure also meant we needed to make a change in our food trucks, and we have longtime corporate partner and enthusiastic supporter Triumph Aerostructures to thank for making that happen! Over the past few months, Triumph modified our food trucks to provide capacity to hold 24 full-size catering pans at temperature on each truck. This means that on a single itinerary we can now share up to 300 meals and snacks in the community! It’s been a small change that has had a BIG impact on how we're working to cultivate community and alleviate hunger in our city.