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.


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.


Mid-Week Hope Break

KNOW Hunger Art Contest Winners 1st Place: Emily Miller, Jackie Martinez and Briana London - MLK Jr. Academic Magnet School; 2nd Place: Emma Jones - MLK Jr. Academic Magnet School; 3rd Place: Kayla Smith - John Early Middle School

KNOW Hunger Art Contest Winners
1st Place: Emily Miller, Jackie Martinez and Briana London – MLK Jr. Academic Magnet School; 2nd Place: Emma Jones – MLK Jr. Academic Magnet School; 3rd Place: Kayla Smith – John Early Middle School

Writing a mid-week update on happenings for the KNOW Hunger Nashville project that is sure to leave you with a bit of hope. Just two weeks ago on March 26 and 27, the team was busy being part of the HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) Spring Symposium and the Family Supper Program, a joint partnership with the Urban League of Middle Tennessee (ULMT) and Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS).

While travel got off to a rocky start due to some unexpected airline issues getting to Nashville, the trip wasn’t all lost. We had a great time visiting our friends with the HBCU Wellness Project for their Spring Symposium where the group convenes each year for general business and student presentations of findings from their public wellness research studies. Team Tyson was on hand to present awards to the KNOW Hunger Art Contest winners from the Wellness Expo in November and also to provide feedback to the students on their presentations. Thanks again to our friends at the HBCU Wellness Project for their kind hospitality.



Tyson Foods is proud to support the Family Supper Series hosted by the Urban League of Middle Tennessee.

Later that afternoon we joined the Urban League to help out with their Family Supper held at the Claiborne Family Faith Worship Center. The Family Supper was the brainchild ULMT and MNPS, and has yielded amazing results in the community. So much so, that we not only wanted to attend, we wanted to sponsor a series on SNAP education and healthy eating. Word has it that the Family Suppers, since their inception only last year, have sparked meaningful conversation and action in a variety of communities across the city in the areas of parental involvement, literacy and healthy living.

We were really in for a treat that night. The Tennessee State University Extension program was on hand to a give presentation and demonstration on healthier drink options to beverages loaded with disguised sugar. We also heard from local moms Essence and Tiffany, who were deeply moved by the Family Suppers and have successfully set up action groups that meet at their children’s school on a weekly basis regarding community concerns.

Our team was so inspired by these ladies and all they have accomplished. Their message is one of hope. They hope to prove that through faith and perseverance you can forge a better life for your family through small, yet impactful gestures of healthy eating, community activism and parental involvement. Thanks Essence and Tiffany for reminding us why we do what we do.


Claiborne community residents. (Center: Tiffany; Right: Essence)

Update: We’ve been busy in Nashville!

Since the August 2013 launch of the KNOW Hunger Nashville project, we’ve been enthusiastically organizing and planning our outreach and commitment to the Nashville, Tenn. community through 2015. We’ve got some great stuff planned! To recap, KNOW Hunger Nashville is a two-year partnership and initiative between Tyson Foods, Urban League of Middle Tennessee  and Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee to raise awareness of food insecurity and nutrition education in the Nashville area. 

The HBCU Wellness Project team kicked off the 2013 Wellness Expo at Bicentennial State Park in Nashville, Tenn. with Tyson Foods and the Urban League of Middle Tennessee.

The HBCU Wellness Project team kicked off the 2013 Wellness Expo at Bicentennial State Park in Nashville, Tenn. with Tyson Foods and the Urban League of Middle Tennessee.


We hit the ground running in the fall, executing a Wellness Expo event with the  HBCU Wellness Project (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), the Urban League of Middle Tennessee and Meharry Medical College  on November 16 at Bicentennial State Park in downtown Nashville. With more than 400 people in attendance, the event was a huge success. 

Several Team Members from Tyson Foods- Goodlettsville and Shelbyville, Tenn. plants prepared chicken sandwiches at the HBCU Wellness Expo.

Several Team Members from Tyson Foods- Goodlettsville and Shelbyville, Tenn. plants prepared chicken sandwiches at the HBCU Wellness Expo.


Approximately 75 participating vendors gave expo-goers access to information for essential services, transportation, fitness, healthy cooking and spirituality. Tyson was happy to be on hand with the Meals that Matter truck where the Shelbyville and Goodlettsville, Tenn. plant teams distributed more than 700 chicken sandwiches to attendees. 
Nearly 40 local middle school students competed in the 2013 KNOW Hunger Art Contest.

Nearly 40 local middle school students competed in the 2013 KNOW Hunger Art Contest.


A highlight to the Expo was the KNOW Hunger Art Contest where middle school students from Martin Luther King, Jr. Magnet School and John Early Middle School created art that depicted what it meant to them to truly know hunger. Contestants were recognized by State Rep. Harold Love, Jr. of Nashville and Patricia Parish Stokes, President and CEO of the Urban League of Middle Tennessee.


In March – April 2014, we have some very exciting things developing for the partnership. We’re working now towards building a website with help from Second Harvest that will aid food box and SNAP recipients in better planning their meals using the resources they are given. The site will feature a series of tools that include instructional videos, recipes and tip sheets that explain things like buying in bulk, utilizing staple pantry items and how to create a basic one pot meal. Because studies show that many families access the internet through their mobile phone exclusively, the site will be optimized for mobile use.

This upcoming spring and summer, we also plan to host events with Urban League and Second Harvest that educate key opinion leaders on hunger issues in the community through engaging and eye-opening activities.

Stay tuned for more exciting news from the KNOW Hunger Campaign!

KNOW Hunger Nashville

KNOW Hunger Nashville kicked off recently with Tyson Foods Vice President of Customer Development Paul Davis, at podium, joining, from left, Dr. Noel Manyindo of the National Urban League, State Rep. Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville, Patricia Stokes of the Urban League of Middle Tennessee and Jaynee Day of Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee for a food donation and press conference.

KNOW Hunger Nashville kicked off recently with Tyson Foods Vice President of Customer Development Paul Davis, at podium, joining, from left, Dr. Noel Manyindo of the National Urban League, State Rep. Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville, Patricia Stokes of the Urban League of Middle Tennessee and Jaynee Day of Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee for a food donation and press conference.

30,000 Reasons to Love KNOW Hunger Nashville

NASHVILLE, TN – A new partnership called KNOW Hunger Nashville launched on Aug. 15 in “Music City” with the donation of 30,000 pounds of protein to the regional Feeding America food bank.

Tyson Foods is proud to partner with two of Middle Tennessee’s best organizations – the Urban League and Second Harvest Food Bank – for this two-year campaign that aims to raise awareness about hunger and nutrition. The entire press conference may be viewed here.

Piloted in 2012 by the National Urban League and Tyson Foods in Jackson, Miss., the program comes to Middle Tennessee because of the area’s high food insecurity rates, proximity to Tyson facilities and strong local Urban League and food bank affiliates.

The Mississippi pilot saw 115,000 pounds of food donated, twin nutrition fairs in Vicksburg, Miss., and Jackson, Miss., a proliferation of activism and an increase in agency participation with the Mississippi Food Network.

In cooperation with Meharry Medical College and Tennessee State University, the Nashville effort will include a variety of initiatives such as wellness fairs, Supplemental Nutrition Aassistance Program education, food donations, nutrition programming and the development of a new digital tool for stretching food budgets.

Nashville may seem an odd choice on first blush. Known for its rich history, music celebrities and pro sports, Tennessee’s capital conjures images of mansions and southern glam.

The truth though is that although two thirds of people nationally don’t think hunger is a problem in their community, one in four Americans worry about putting food on the table. That’s where KNOW Hunger comes in.

Raising awareness about the many nuances surrounding hunger will be the cornerstone of the endeavor.

Nashville’s Davidson County has a food insecurity rate of 18 percent, meaning about 112,000 of its residents frequently lack access to adequate food. Statewide, more than 400,000 families in Tennessee face food insecurity.

About 50 leaders attended the recent kickoff including representatives from all of the partners plus local influencers. State Rep. Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville, credited fellow speaker Dr. Noel Manyindo, a medical doctor and the NUL’s Senior Director of Health & Quality of Life, with articulating out how disproportionately children, seniors and minorities are affected by hunger.

“Children cannot perform at their highest level if they go to bed hungry and report back to school the next day hungry,” Gilmore said. “We want them to be at their best so that they can be the brightest students and Tennessee can rise to the top in every single area.”

Jaynee Day, president and CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee, said although many people believe the nation has recovered from recession, food banks continue to experience an uptick in need.

“This partnership will not only help Second Harvest continue to raise awareness of hunger issues, but it will also provide a valuable resource for individuals and families to learn how to access food assistance programs and provide more nutritious meals at home.”

Patricia Stokes, president and CEO of the Urban League of Middle Tennessee, said her organization is excited to add its voice and track record of success to the cause.

“It is our hope that this endeavor will strengthen our community and move individuals and families who are health challenged toward improved health and those who are food insecure toward greater security,” Stokes said.

The Urban League of Middle Tennessee will spearhead local efforts. Some of the more than 4,000 people Tyson Foods employs in Tennessee will also be involved in volunteer efforts along with assistance from local Urban League affiliate Guild and Young Professional auxiliary members.

Tyson Foods has been active in hunger relief more many years, donating more than donated 93 million pounds of protein to food banks other relief agencies since 2000.

The Twitter hashtag for the campaign is #KNOWHunger.

About the National Urban League
The National Urban League (www.nul.org) is a historic civil rights and urban advocacy organization dedicated to economic empowerment in historically underserved urban communities. Founded in 1910 and headquartered in New York City, the National Urban League has improved the lives of more than two million people nationwide through direct service programs that are implemented locally by its 95 Urban League affiliates in 300 communities across 36 states and the District of Columbia. The organization also conducts public policy research and advocacy activities from its Washington, DC bureau. The National Urban League, a BBB-accredited organization, has an A-rating from Charity Watch and a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, placing it in the top 10 percent of all U.S. charities for adhering to good governance, fiscal responsibility and other best practices.

About Tyson Foods
Tyson Foods, Inc.(NYSE: TSN), with headquarters in Springdale, Arkansas, is one of the world’s largest processors and marketers of chicken, beef and pork, the second-largest food production company in the Fortune 500 and a member of the S&P 500. The company was founded in 1935 by John W. Tyson, whose family has continued to be involved with son Don Tyson leading the company for many years and grandson John H. Tyson serving as the current Chairman of the Board of Directors. Tyson Foods produces a wide variety of protein-based and prepared food products and is the recognized market leader in the retail and foodservice markets it serves. The company provides products and services to customers throughout the United States and approximately 130 countries. It has approximately 115,000 Team Members employed at more than 400 facilities and offices in the United States and around the world. Through its Core Values, Code of Conduct and Team Member Bill of Rights, Tyson Foods strives to operate with integrity and trust and is committed to creating value for its shareholders, customers and Team Members. The company also strives to be faith-friendly, provide a safe work environment and serve as stewards of the animals, land and environment entrusted to it.

About Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee
Organized in 1978, Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee is a private, not-for-profit, tax-exempt organization. Second Harvest’s mission is to feed hungry people and work to solve hunger issues in our community. Second Harvest distributes food and other products to approximately 400 nonprofit partner agencies in 46 counties in Middle and West Tennessee. Our partners include food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, childcare facilities, senior centers, group homes, and youth enrichment programs. For more information on Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee and its programs, please visit www.secondharvestmidtn.org.

Here We Are Now. Engage Us.

A part of my job involves trying to get my fellow Tyson team members engaged in the issue of hunger. After all, there are 115,000 of us in 25 states. That’s a lot of potential impact.

We have a very small staff to do this hunger stuff, so not a lot of bandwidth for handholding or managing programs. Our best hope for getting people involved in our 90 locations is to direct them to their local foodbank or hunger organization to volunteer, and hope the hunger organization converts them into “true believers.”

Sometimes the experience the non-profit provides is great.  You can tell because those are the locations where Tyson team members are out there doing tremendous hunger relief stuff with little or no encourgement from those of us at the corporate office.

Sometimes the experience is…well, I know running a food bank is really hard work, and the responsibilities can be overwhelming. Designing the perfect volunteer experience is probably pretty far down on the priority list.

But at some point, you need to win peoples’ hearts. Then you can win their volunteer hours and maybe even some of their cash donations. And you’ll never, ever have a better opportunity than the first time they show up to volunteer.

What do you do when volunteers show up? Do you just send them back to the sorting room with a five minute elevator speech? Or is there something you do to reach out and make them lifelong advocates for your cause?