Oh, SNAP…we’re invading food deserts!

About two weeks ago, “Music City” was alive and pumping. Fans from around the world were traveling to Nashville, Tennessee, in droves for the Country Music Awards Music Festival. In the midst of fun and excitement, the everyday hustle for locals carried on.

Unfortunately, that also meant that hunger too, never missed a beat.

According to the USDA Food Research Atlas, 1 in 5 Nashville residents live in a food desert. This type of ‘desert’ is a geographic area where access to affordable, fresh food (such as produce), is not easily accessible.

With this knowledge, we were excited to drive over to the Parthenon Towers across from Centennial Park on Thursday, June 11 where we unveiled a brand new mobile market with our friends from Community Food Advocates. The swanky design of the truck looks similar to a tasty food truck you’d find in any downtown metro area during lunch. However, this renovated vehicle (featured above) was a new concept for The Nashville Mobile Market that doubles their fleet as a result of $35,000 gift through our KNOW Hunger Nashville project with the Urban League of Middle Tennessee.

Tyson_Foods_MobileMarket_Small-11

This month alone, The Nashville Mobile Market will make 49 stops with 23 different partner agencies. At each stop, local residents have access to nutritious food items, ranging from seasonal fruits like strawberries to veggies such as broccoli, and other pantry staples. Better still, shoppers have the option to purchase food with SNAP dollars.

We may be a meat company, but we know the importance in having access to a well rounded and nutritious meal. The ability to use SNAP benefits at this mobile market means it is one more convenience to help individuals and families facing tough times to stretch their dollar. Nashville Metro Council Members Burkley Allen and Erica Gilmore joined us in making a few remarks indicating the significance of such an expansion.

After children, elderly and disabled individuals are amongst the greatest percentage of SNAP recipients. Therefore, even with a grocery store a bus ride away from Parthenon Towers, many residents at this location are unable to travel due to limited mobility. The words of gratitude that were shared by frequent market patrons were overwhelming and confirmed our belief that helping to make the vision of Community Food Advocates a reality truly makes a difference.

The mobile market reveal was just the start of our trip. We also spent time with two important groups of leaders to talk about food insecurity in Middle Tennessee, and to challenge them.

IMG_0161 IMG_4345

The first group included approximately 47 high school students enrolled in the Urban League’s College Readiness program. We emphasized that no one person represents hunger while discussing how food insecurity can affect performance in school and at work. In a classroom-made grocery store scenario, we “aged” two students a few years and challenged them to shop for themselves on a limited budget — similar to an individual who may receive SNAP. With nutrition in mind, both Ashanti and Michael made excellent choices that were balanced in diet, although budgeting was definitely a test. The room of students  was quick to chime in on what better decisions could have been made. In wrapping up the discussion, we encouraged students to be sensitive to others who may silently experience hunger and shared that even at their age. The takeaway was they too can be active in ways to fight hunger.

On Friday, June 12, we closed out the week with our second KNOW Hunger Challenge in Nashville. Our goal was to create awareness about hunger, offer SNAP and nutrition education while debunking myths about the federally funded program and its users. It was an honor to have been invited by the Alpha Delta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Sorority, Inc., whose organization programs target health promotion, family strengthening and educational enrichment.  In addition to sorority members, the room of community leaders included Tennessee State Representative Brenda Gilmore, Councilwoman Erica Gilmore and Team Members from our Tyson Foods – Shelbyville location.

Competitiveness and camaraderie were in full effect as we sent the teams out on their shopping mission at a nearby grocery store. They were charged with shopping for a hypothetical family of four. Although many participants were longtime shoppers for their own families,  they still found the challenge to be eye-opening.  For example, one of the takeaways noted was the nutritional value in shopping more around the perimeter of the store, where one can find fresh produce, grains, bread, meats and dairy.

The challenge was also an appreciated reminder of the real-life challenge for those participants  whohave had to shop on a budget in the past but who can now shop more freely as they’ve advanced in careers. As we discredited the myth that all SNAP recipients are lifetime beneficiaries, we added that the experience is an opportunity to empathize and educate extended family or friends that may have fallen on tough times.

Speaking of tough times, all food purchased during the challenge was donated our friends at The Nashville Food Project who make it possible for hundreds of Nashvillians facing hardships to have a hot meal every day. Elanco sweetened the pot with an additional $500 gift card donation!

KNOW Hunger Challenge Winning Team

KNOW Hunger Challenge Winning Team

We know that hunger will not end at the SNAP of a finger. The fight against hunger is fought in the everyday battles of more than 110,000 Nashville residents. To overcome, it will take an evolving and committed group of strong individuals, playing different roles but working together as a team to help our neighbors get back on their feet so that our communities can win. We’re so fortunate in this campaign to have found great partners, each of whom in their own way bear arms to take down hunger and its barriers in Middle Tennessee.

 

Party with a Purpose

‘Tis the season for numerous holiday celebrations! Regardless of your background or beliefs, you’ve probably received countless invitations and have taken part in a few winter festivities.

Urban League Young Professionals of Middle Tennessee and Tyson Foods Team Members from Shelbyville & Goodlettsville, TN locations

Urban League Young Professionals of Middle Tennessee and Tyson Foods Team Members from Shelbyville & Goodlettsville, TN locations

This past weekend, Santa’s reindeer took me back to Nashville, Tenn. to meet up with a few Team Members from our Shelbyville & Goodlettsville facilities for an evening of mix and mingling with up and coming community leaders–the mission: spread good cheer to inspire others to use their voice to talk about domestic hunger.

Every year, the Urban League of Middle Tennessee Young Professionals host an annual holiday party with a toy drive. This year we added a food drive and a little twist…

We challenged young professionals to use their voice on social media to talk about facts related to food insecurity with the hashtag, #KNOWHungerMT. “You know those young professionals, always on their phones,” one might say. So why not show the true value of 140 characters?

Our goal was simply to engage the young professionals, their networks (and really, everyone) in a conversation in hopes that we inspire future advocates to carry the torch in fighting hunger.

And, to make their tweets a part of immediate hunger relief, Tyson Foods promised to donate $5 for every #KNOWHungerMT tweet/retweet during the weekend up to $5K, to The Nashville Food Project (who also received the food items collected that evening).

We were excited to see the weekend Twitter conversation included nearly 300 mentions! While we could be technical with our calculations, we knew that the full $5,000 could go a long way for The Nashville Food Project and the communities they serve so we’re gifting the entire amount – ’tis the season to give!

Here’s the thing to remember: While the holidays come and go with joyous times for many, the sad reality is that hunger happens year-round. The good news is that there are little ways each of us can help to make a big difference.

Tell us, what are your plans to ‘party with a purpose’ this holiday season? How will you help fight hunger after the season as we head into a new year?

Perfect Excuse To Get Together

Tyson_Family_Super-118

It seems unbelievable that we’ve already passed the Fourth of July, indicating that not too long from now we’ll be waving goodbye to 2014 and saying “HELLO!” to 2015.

During the celebration of America’s independence, we take time to reflect on the many sacrifices made for our great country and to appreciate the freedoms and liberties we have. For many, it’s time shared with family and friends, which usually includes a good meal and great conversations under a sky of fireworks.

Our friends at the Urban League of Middle Tennessee know all about seizing the opportunity to sit down at a Family Supper in ways that can impact the community. Check out the video here:

What do you enjoy most about Family Suppers? Do you have them often enough?

Adversity on the Field

Prior to joining Tyson Foods, I had the privilege of working for a World Champion NFL team, so I have seen excellence on and off the field first-hand, alongside the hard work and preparation it takes to get there as a unit. So when I tell you that I could not be more PROUD to now work with my GREAT teammates at Tyson, it does not begin to explain how I feel about this organization – who we are and what we do to feed families.

In light of the recent chain of weather events that have unleashed mass destruction and impacted hundreds of lives across the South, how grateful I am to work for a company that not only is large enough to provide material resources, but that also has a genuine culture of caring for each other.

I am nothing short of AMAZED with our Team Members.

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to be “in the field” with our Meals that Matter disaster relief crew that included cook teams from our Clarksville, Dardanelle, Texarkana and Transportation locations (all from Arkansas) on a trip to Mayflower, AR. We set up shop at the local high school after a tornado struck the area, including neighboring town Vilonia, on Sunday, April 27, 2014.

“Surreal” is the only word to describe the experience of arriving to an area less than 24 hours after a natural disaster – from seeing properties that held the personal belongings of families for generations to the humbleness that flows through your veins in being able to offer a hot meal to those who are stranded – which is what our Dardanelle guys and myself did. While our Team Members at the high school dished out hundreds meals, we piled into a pick-up truck and went into the once-lively neighborhoods to deliver food and water to those that couldn’t make it to our site.

Team Members Dave and Mike helping deliver meals in Mayflower, AR.

Team Members Dave and Mike helping deliver meals in Mayflower, AR.

In the meantime, we have superstar Team Members who’ve rushed to the aid of those in Mississippi and other states impacted, doing what they can without pause.

My heart and prayers go out to all those affected by the storms.

You know that saying that goes, “I didn’t realize my own strength…” Our Team Members are exemplary models of going above and beyond in ways that we sometimes don’t realize are even possible.