We think it is very important for the members of our Board to spend some time volunteering with The Nashville Food Project so we stay in touch with the day-to-day work of the organization. A story from one of my recent truck runs stands out in my mind as an example of why I am a part of TNFP and reminds me what it means for us to share food with each other in community.
It was a picture perfect day as we drove the short distance to the Vine Hill community. Once there we were met by several smiling faces awaiting our arrival. People are always glad to see you if you come bearing food! We set up the table at the back of the truck, spread a tablecloth across it, and gave away delicious and nutritious meals. Everyone was in high spirits because the weather was such a gift after a spell of some cold and rainy spring days. That day two of our volunteer cooks had prepared a tasty Mexican casserole with food we had gleaned from Chipotle, a beautiful and generous green salad with vegetables grown from our own gardens, and a very yummy cobbler with the first berries of the season.
We were about halfway through serving lunch when a car pulled up on the street near us. A woman got out of her car and approached me. I thought maybe she wanted a meal. Instead, she pressed some money into my hand and quickly said, “I’m glad for what you do and I want to be a part of it.” I glanced at the ten dollar bill she had given me and jammed it in my pocket. I thanked her warmly and smiled and waved at her as she drove away.
We had finished serving and were packing up when I remembered it. I said to my friends, “Did you see that lady in the white car? She gave us ten bucks!” As I fished the bills from my pocket I realized it was not a ten dollar bill, but two one hundred dollar bills. She had seen us serving and stopped and gave us a $200 donation.
I wish I had her name. I wish I could write her a thank you note, and maybe invite her to join us on a truck run sometime. But this is how it goes with The Nashville Food Project. The efforts of so many people go into getting those good meals onto the streets. The farmer who grew the lettuce and vegetables for the salad, the staff member who cultivated a relationship with Chipotle so that we might give away their extra food, the young people who picked the berries and the intern who made the cobbler. The person who made sure there was gas in the truck and the anonymous donor who gave us an extra freezer so we could use berries long after they were freshly picked. The cooks who give up their Fridays to cook for a crowd, and frugal Anne, our Meals Coordinator, who can stretch a dollar so that the food we served that day cost only 30 cents a meal.
All of these efforts and more keep our place humming with contagious excitement. We’re harvesting fresh food–the fruits of this good earth–and we’re giving it away to people who seldom get a delicious and home-cooked meal. We’re feeding bodies and spirits. We all give, and we all receive. Our place always smells fantastic because our little kitchen is in the middle of everything. And it’s not just the smell of lunch in the oven. It’s the sweet sweet fragrance of hospitality shared and love given back and forth across the table.
Rev. Viki Matson