On the final day of Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival — with bass thumping across the grounds and temperatures in the upper 80’s — a group of strangers gathered under a wide tent and exchanged introductions. It’s the sort of thing that happens throughout the festival weekend — a young man from Alabama making new friends with a couple from Michigan. But in this instance it wasn’t the music entirely that brought about 30 festival-goers together, it was an opportunity to give back.
Bonnaroo teamed up with a group of varied nonprofits this year — including The Nashville Food Project — to host the festival’s first-ever, onsite service project making meal kits of beans and rice for more than 1,400 people. Oxfam and Eat for Equity shared the use of their space for the project in Bonnaroo’s Planet Roo; Kim Warnick of Calling All Crows spearheaded logistics and pulled in The Outreach Program, a company that packs and ships dry goods meal kits. Bonnaroo handled spreading the word about the volunteer opportunity to festival attendees who showed up to form assembly lines across long tables. Each time a team filled a box of 36 meals, a volunteer clanged a bell and the group cheered.
Members of The Nashville Food Project team helped package the meals and then transported them back to Nashville where TNFP also will be in charge of distribution. Each meal kit comes with a sticker offering tips on adding fresh vegetables to the kits.
For our first food sharing opportunity with the kits, we took more than 200 meal kits to a housing community in North Nashville. We had learned that a large number of young people live in the apartments and were lacking regular access to school food. Community organizer Otis Carter of The 200 Man Stand offered support and then he helped spread the word. Residents of all ages came out.
To supplement the meal kits, we took several bins of produce purchased and donated by the Bells Bend Conservation Corridor from area farms — tomatoes, corn, peppers, eggplant, potatoes and summer squash. Our meals team also pulled together snack bags for kids to eat right away including healthy trail mix and orange wedges. Bags of biscuits mix went quickly too.
We believe sharing food is sharing nourishment — as much for spirit and soul as for the body. Procurement and Sustainability Manager David Frease has plans to deliver meals across many of our partner sites. In the meantime, we’re grateful in thinking of all the people and hands who came together to make these meals and help nourish more than 1,400 of our Nashville neighbors.