The statistics of domestic violence in our country are staggering. One in four women in the U.S. experiences intimate partner violence in her lifetime. Approximately 15.5 million children are exposed to domestic violence every year. And in our own community, The Metro Nashville Police Department received over 26,600 reports of domestic violence in 2014 - that’s one report every 20 minutes.
In January 2017, we began a partnership with the YWCA, providing weekday dinners for their Weaver Domestic Violence Center. This 51-bed shelter is the largest domestic violence shelter in Tennessee, providing a safe space for women and children escaping domestic violence (men are housed at another partner facility).
“The women, the children, our staff - anyone who walk through these walls - deserves a clean, welcoming, healthy place,” says Laura Clark, the Residential Coordinator at the shelter for the past 17 years.
The YWCA empowers domestic violence survivors to take control of their lives, while offering them safety and the resources to ensure their self-sufficiency. The YWCA’s programs are designed to empower women and offer opportunities for self-determination in every area of life, including the design of their food program at the shelter.
In contrast, the two kitchens at the shelter are stocked with pantry items and ingredients for the women and families to have access on their own schedule. They have spaces for any of their personal food, and can add requests for spices or other pantry items to a community shopping list.
"At first when they talked about having (TNFP) I didn’t know exactly what it was – they started and thought, ‘Oh my gosh - I don’t know why we couldn’t have found you all years ago!’"
The dinner meal at the shelter, provided by TNFP, is advertised to start early evening, but the women can come at whatever time works for their schedule. “Many of the women work, have school, and are taking care of their kids. When they come here, we want to offer at least one good meal a day – which is (TNFP),” Laura tells us. “Food is comforting. And our goal is to make sure they’re fed and they’re taken care of – it’s just one less thing to worry about.”
When asked about how the food has been received, Laura shared, “I have seen positive impacts. Some of the women have never eaten like this. It’s healthy, and it’s flavors that you don’t get just anywhere - even in the restaurants,” she adds, smiling.
And of course, this is just one small piece of the much broader impact of the YWCA’s work. In 2016, the YWCA served 453 adults and children at the Weaver Domestic Violence Center, providing not just a safe space, but also case management, safety planning, support groups, and counseling.
We are so grateful to be a partner with the YWCA in this important work! Learn more about the YWCA’s mission and programs on their website.