By TNFP's Food Donations Coordinator, Booth Jewett
Since I started as the Food Donations Coordinator at The Nashville Food Project (TNFP), healthy living has been at the forefront of my mind. Our garden programs bring people from all walks of life into the fields together to grow local, organic produce for people in our community. Our meals program thrives on the gifts, generosity, and creativity of individuals every day to make nourishing meals that are shared all around Nashville. As we’ve grown our food donation and recovery efforts, it is always with these same values and our mission in mind!
Since 2016, TNFP’s food recovery efforts have brought in about 120,000 lbs of food each year, including fresh produce, proteins, and pantry items. We use as much of this recovered food as possible in our own meals. Any food that is unsalvageable but compostable goes to our compost system to be broken down and put back into the gardens to grow more food!
Ultimately, we are always seeking creative ways to share the food in our care in ways that best fit the needs of our partners, supporting shared efforts to build community and disrupt poverty in our community. In the past year, this has meant expanding our meals partnership model beyond our own meals and snacks. Now we include fresh produce and other ingredients as potential opportunities for food support to our partners.
One of these partners is Trevecca Towers, a retirement community that is committed to serving seniors and persons with disabilities with a caring living environment that promotes dignity and relevance. Every Wednesday morning the Towers open their chapel and fill it with donated food for residents to “shop”. After a few months of this, Nick Polk, the Director of the Service Coordinator Department, noticed a trend in the food they were receiving. “We had food co-ops delivering almost exclusively bread, sweets, and processed foods. While these items can be helpful, I started getting more residents asking if we might be able to receive more fruits and veggies. This request resulted in us reaching out to The Nashville Food Project and becoming a sharing partner.” The Nashville Food Project has been sharing extra produce from local farms and pre-packaged produce from Whole Foods with Trevecca Towers each week for the last year. “The reality is that it’s way easier to get ahold of sweets and processed foods than it is organic food and fresh produce, and The Nashville Food Project has made strides in changing that reality for our residents”, says Nick.
Contrast Trevecca Towers with another sharing partner, Safe Room. Safe Room is a Tennessee Department of Children’s Services program that provides designated spaces for children waiting for placement in a foster or kinship home. When Safe Room reached out to The Nashville Food Project, it wasn’t for fresh produce but instead for what they called “comfort foods”. Dana Eskridge, a Volunteer Service Coordinator with Safe Room, explained that “Since the kids that come through here are in transition, we try to keep foods stocked in our fridges that can act as a comfort while they are with us.” In response to this request, we have been able to share Whole Foods donated prepared food items ranging from soups, salads, and sandwiches to frozen pizzas, pastries, and desserts with Safe Room twice a week.
I used to think that being healthy was exclusively tied to eating nutritional food and living an active lifestyle. But after being apart of The Nashville Food Project’s work the last couple of years and seeing so many nuanced expressions of our mission in action, I am starting to realize that being healthy is also about meeting each others needs and having balance and connection in our lives. At The Nashville Food Project, we strive to embrace the complications and conflicts that exist not only in our current food system, but in our collected response to that system. I really love that about this place.