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.

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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.

 

Blogging for good

NKH blogger visit photo

Getting advice from experts on breakfast in the classroom

When we started getting involved in hunger relief almost fifteen years ago, our first partner was Share Our Strength. There we encountered a large, vibrant community of folks who were passionate about ending hunger. When social media began emerging in the mid 2000’s,
we saw other communities come together online, and thought, “Wouldn’t it be tremendous if these digital tools could bring the hunger community together?” We started this blog in September 2007 for that very reason.

Today, we’re proud to say that our friends at Share Our Strength/No Kid Hungry have one the best social media teams out there, doing an excellent job of growing their vibrant community and creating awareness for the issue of childhood hunger. It’s our great pleasure to sponsor their blogger network.

Last week, we had the privilege, along with the No Kid Hungry digital team, of hosting three members of the blogging network, in addition to two great northwest Arkansas bloggers at our corporate headquarters, to discuss how the blogger network can be made stronger and more robust. We had some excellent discussion.

Thanks so much to Becky Tarala, author of The Two Bite Club;  Josi Del Papa, who pens The American Mama and Dawn McCoy, creator of Beauty Frosting (among other things).   Also joining were Laurie Marshall of Junque Rethunque (among other things) and James Moore of busvlogger.

We got a chance to visit an after-school feeding program and a breakfast in the classroom program to see direct evidence of the work No Kid Hungry is doing in Arkansas.   A big shoutout to Fayetteville Public Schools and Springdale Public Schools for many kids they’re feeding with these programs.  We also got an excellent overview from Rachel Townsend, director of Cooking Matters for No Kid Hungry Arkansas, of the work they’re doing in the state.

It was good fun, good people, and lively, enlightening discussion. Check their blogs for some excellent content. And thanks to all for the energy and insights on how to make online communities work for No Kid Hungry.

The Food Security Genome

DNA Double HelixBy Matt Pakula, Tyson Foods Corporate Social Responsibility

As one of the most innovative food companies, we’re always looking at new ideas for our business and our brands. It’s part of who we are. We also know there are opportunities to be innovative as we seek to alleviate hunger in our communities. While we try to reduce food insecurity through several initiatives and partnerships, a new one announced today at the Clinton Global Initiative winter meeting in New York City offers exciting promise to identify the key success factors that lead to improving food security.
The Food Security Genome will create critical benchmark data about food security programs, quantifying the outcomes and identifying key success factors. The model that results will turn decades of data about alleviating hunger into actionable insights that will enable project funders, or any user, to predict the effectiveness and cost per outcome for a food security program.
We’re optimistic that over time using data in this way will improve the lives of many hungry people by creating opportunities to design better programs, allowing funders to deploy grants and contributions more effectively, and helping food security project implementers save time.
We’ll continue to work with our partners on innovative projects like the Food Security Genome. Hopefully, you’ll continue to follow this project as it progresses. In the meantime, you can view the media release for more information here.

image: www.genome.gov–public domain

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?

Waste not. Want not.

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I don’t know about you, but I ate pretty well last Thursday. Turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, the works. And the same on Friday. And Saturday. And in spite of all the food we sent home with our kids, we’ll still have Thanksgiving leftovers that will ultimately, unfortunately, not be eaten. It’s a sad fact that we waste a lot of food in America. Some say we could feed all the hungry in the world with what gets thrown away. I’m not sure I believe that, but I do know we can do a heck of a lot better when it comes to making good use of what we have.

At Tyson Foods, we’ve aspired to be a thought leader in the discussion of how a growing world is going to be fed. Recently food waste has become a very, very hot topic in that discussion.
So it was appropriate that in the week of Thanksgiving we announced a $225,000 Tyson Foods grant to the University of Arkansas, in support of their Full Circle Campus Food Pantry and an exciting young program called Razorback Food Recovery. The latter is specifically focused on recovering and redistributing food that would otherwise be wasted, and in its first seven months of existence has saved more than 20,000 pounds of wholesome food from the dumpster, and given it to organizations that feed those in need.

These U of A programs are groundbreaking, and the exciting thing about our grant, is a portion of it is specifically earmarked for showing other colleges and universities around the country how to implement similar successful programs. We’re hopeful that we’re sowing seeds for the recovery of a lot more food that can feed hungry people.

Here’s an article that tells more about the donation.
Meanwhile, think about your personal role in this issue. What can we do as individuals and as a society to make certain as little as possible is wasted?