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 organizations 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.