For the past few school years, the seventh and eighth graders at Abintra Montessori School have been filling our prep room each month. There the students clean and chop vegetables, assemble sandwiches and snacks, and put together beautiful fruit salads while listening to fun tunes with our staff. It’s a partnership that we have grown to love and one that we’re proud to hear is essential to the education of Abintra students.
“Volunteering is an integral part of our curriculum,” Abintra Middle School Guide Kim Blevins-Relleva tells us. “We’re trying to teach students to think critically about the world.”
She explains that there is a social justice component to Abintra’s educational philosophy, teaching the students that what they do in the community matters just as what they learn in the classroom matters in their daily lives.
Abintra looks at volunteerism as so much more than an opportunity for students to feel better about themselves, but an opportunity to make a positive contribution.
“We believe that access to food should be a basic human right, but it really is a privilege here in our community,” Kim tells us. She says that food insecurity is a reality that many Abintra students struggle to relate to so it’s that much more important for them to realize the impact of the work they do in The Nashville Food Project kitchen. Each time the students help with meal prep, they look at our meal partner map to learn more about where the food is going and the work it is supporting.
In our kitchen, the students get so much more than a fun volunteer activity. “They enjoy being entrusted to do jobs that typically adults would do - cooking and chopping. At The Nashville Food Project, they’re treated with respect by the staff, and they get to see the final product of what they’ve created,” Kim explains.
Kim tells us that the school tried many different organizations before settling on The Nashville Food Project as the regular volunteer partner for their middle school. They looked for an experience that taught their students that we all need each other in some way. “No matter who you are or what your life circumstance may be, we all need help.”
Here at The Nashville Food Project, they found a similar philosophy that blurs the lines between giver and receiver, one in which we recognize our interdependence and our shared basic needs.
Having the Abintra students in our kitchen has become something we look forward to as each school year nears. They’ve just rejoined us this month, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome them back.