By Christa Bentley, Interim Chief Programs Officer
Since moving into our new building in December we have been learning a lot. Dipping our toes into what’s possible in our incredible, shiny new kitchen; inviting our volunteers to get comfy here; meeting our neighbors; making new friends; and working hard to make this kitchen a home for ourselves and, we hope, for many others. Our meals program has been slowly adding meals as we’ve been getting to know this new space and the incredible capacity that comes alongside it.
But now, we’re ready to GROW. Over the last few years, we have been learning about the incredible need for summer meals for youth in Nashville and wishing we could do more. Every school year, Metro Nashville Public Schools serves 8.4 million lunches and 4 million breakfasts. During the summer months, without these daily meals, many children and youth are at risk of hunger. According to Feeding America, this could be as many as 1 in 5 children under the age of 18.
These numbers are staggering, and we are finally in a position to do something about it. We are thrilled to announce a new initiative for our meals program: Sweet Peas, summer eats for kids. This summer, The Nashville Food Project is partnering with the YMCA of Middle Tennessee, Project Transformation, the Martha O’Bryan Center, United Way’s SPARK program at Haywood Elementary, and Nashville International Center for Empowerment to share over 35,000 nutritious meals with over 600 of Nashville’s children and youth. This is in addition to the ongoing local meals partnerships the Food Project maintains all year long.
These meals will not just be another drop in the bucket. They will be healthy, delicious, local, and made-from-scratch. Our hope is that the love that goes into these meals from the hundreds of volunteers who had a hand in their making will be evident to the children who eat them. That they will inspire a new salad lover, a new broccoli eater, some orange smiles. This is the kind of community food we have been working towards all these many years, and now we are ready to act in a larger way.
We need your help to bring this work to life! This expansion will cost over $36,000 and require hours of additional volunteer time, but the impact -- putting good food on the table for so many children and community partners this summer -- will be well worth the effort and expense. You can help us today by donating or signing up to volunteer at one of our kitchens in West Nashville, St. Luke’s Kitchen and California Avenue.
I hope daily that our work at The Nashville Food Project will no longer be necessary because everyone in our community will have access to the most basic human right of nutritious food. But as long as we are needed, these meals, and the many more we plan to cook over years to come, will continue to amplify our vision of nourishing, community food for all.
I hope you’ll consider supporting this important work.
Christa Bentley, Interim Chief Programs Officer
Want to learn more about meals available for Nashville area children and youth this summer? Addressing the summer nutrition gap requires collective work by many, and we’re grateful for the incredible programs and community partners who are sharing in this work! As we learn about additional summer meal resources, we’ll be adding and updating information here.
Metro Action Commission’s Summer Food Service Program prepares nearly 6,000 meals daily during June and July for an average of 110 sites and 3 communities served by the agency's Mobile Youth Café Diners.
Information on Metro Action Commission sites and all Summer Food Service Program sites is available on the Department of Human Service website. You can find meal sites near you by:
1. Going to https://www.fns.usda.gov/summerfoodrocks to use the Site Finder
2. Texting “Summer Meals” to 97779
3. Calling 1-866-348-6479
Metro Nashville Public Schools’ summer meals program is free to children ages 0 to 18, regardless of whether or not they attend Metro Schools. Adults aged 19 and over can receive meals at a reduced cost of $3.75. There are no income requirements or registration. It is paid for through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and comes to Nashville at no net cost to taxpayers.
J.E. Moss Elementary School - June 3 to July 12
4701 Bowfield Dr.
Antioch, TN 37013
Gra Mar Middle School - June 10 to July 3
575 Joyce Ln.
Nashville, TN 37216
The Nashville Food Project is partnering with local organizations this summer to share over 35,000 nutritious meals with over 600 of Nashville’s children and youth. This is in addition to the ongoing local meals partnerships the Food Project maintains all year long. Click here for a list of all Sweet Peas partner locations and dates/times of meal service - note that some of these sites require enrollment.
Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee sponsors the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) at sites throughout Middle Tennessee each summer. Free meals that meet Federal nutrition guidelines are provided to all children at SFSP sites in areas with significant concentrations of low-income children.
Do you know of additional summer meal resources for children and youth in the Nashville area? Add them in the comments!