A simple ingredient - tomato, lettuce, carrots - can touch thousands of lives once it comes through the doors of TNFP. With every crop that we grow, and every meal that we make our ultimate goals are to alleviate hunger and build community. With such lofty goals it’s no wonder that hundreds of people are needed to make this a possibility, and, in return, thousands more are touched by the respect and love shared within their meal. In this blog we will follow the journey of one ingredient in our meals last week: big, beautiful, leafy kale.
With every meal, our goal is to support the community through a multifaceted approach. For this reason we love to grow produce in our gardens. But when that is not possible, our next favorite option is to buy local, naturally-grown foods from other community members. Our meals team is working on a new program to purchase "2nds" from farmers in the hopes of decreasing the waste from our city's food stream by diverting into our meals. This week, we purchased three bins of kale from Sweeter Days Farm to use for the entire week in our South Hall Kitchen. The kale was pulled to make room for new crops and would have otherwise been thrown away.
Our meals team works hard to come up with a plan to use every bit of food that comes our way, and that requires a lot of help. TNFP Intern Kate helped wash and cut the kale for a salad. Kate is a part of Lipscomb University’s IDEAL Program which is a two-year certificate program designed to support students with intellectual or developmental disability. Students in this program take classes, participate in internships, and enjoy the college experience. At TNFP Kate provides assistance in the South Hall kitchen. “I wash fruit, cut up fruit for salad, help prep cookies, vegetables, and snacks.” Kate does much more than help with meal prep. She brings a level of energy and enthusiasm that is passed to everyone working alongside her which helps make the finished product like kale salad that much more incredible.
Although a kale salad always hits the spot, we like to get creative with our meals and use the ingredients that are available. TNFP volunteer cook Shellye and her team prepared a strata with the kale, other veggies, and ham. Almost every meal that comes from the South Hall kitchen is prepared by volunteer cook teams. Shellye explains why she committed to volunteering at TNFP as a regular cook. “I’ve been volunteering here for five years, and I really enjoy the camaraderie of cooking with others and meeting a need to feed healthy food to people who really need it.”
When it comes to sharing food, the purpose is not simply to serve a meal but rather to make connections, meet our neighbors, and find commonalities. Long time volunteer Paula and a group of new volunteers served the meal, complete with kale salad, at John Glenn & Peggy Ann Residential Housing. As a volunteer for over five years she has volunteered in almost every role at TNFP with her family. “I love the mission of bringing good food to people who need it. Food is a common denominator. I like to serve meals in my own home and bring a little bit of home to people who may not have it right now. It's rewarding to serve food.“
The last stop on our journey is in the hands, hearts, and bellies of the people with whom we share our meals. John L Glenn and Peggy Ann are residential centers in North Nashville run by National Church Residences, an agency that provides affordable housing for low-income seniors. TNFP serves 60 hot meals to residents here each week. Victoria at John Glenn and Peggy Ann Residential Housing says “The food has been really, really good and the [volunteer] servers are kind, generous and considerate. It’s a blessing and we look forward to it every week!” When we talked several residents were sitting around a table with their food chatting with each other, visiting with family, and talking to volunteers.
Something so small as a few bins of kale can truly make an impact on hundreds of people when communities are so tightly woven. Each person in Nashville is connected in a powerful way, and though it may not be a connection that is seen at all times, it's there. As Paula mentioned before “food is a common denominator.” And in this story the denominator was kale.