With a personality even bigger than his beard, Nate Paulk leaves just about everyone he meets with a big smile and an “I love you.”
Employed by the United Methodist Church two and half years ago to help bring life into a church with a dwindling congregation, he works to connect people of the community to one another and to the space. He’s helping turn the church back to the people who live in the community through programming -- and food.
Nate and Trinity United Methodist partnered with The Nashville Food Project two years ago for a community meal every Tuesday. Rather than serving food from The Nashville Food Project trucks, though, this meal goes on tables family-style giving guests an opportunity to slow down and connect.
“There’s so much beauty in the ordinariness of getting together for dinner,” he says.
On a recent Tuesday, TNFP outreach intern Noelle Browne unloaded pans of chicken stir-fry with rice, green salad for our gardens and a berry crisp. Volunteers and community members pitched in to help put food on platters for passing at the table.
The dinner draws anywhere from 30 to 75 people each week. Most attendees are non-church members at Trinity but live nearby in an area that’s considered a food desert. Nate hopes to gather the group with staff from The Nashville Food Project and Community Food Advocates for a special meal on Tuesday, Dec. 15 to discuss ways to improve fresh food access in the area.
“I try to listen to people,” he says.