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.


Does How Charity Food Agencies Acquire and Distribute Food Matter?–A guest post

by John Arnold
Executive Director
Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank

Does How Charity Food Agencies Acquire and Distribute Food Matter?

Yes!  It does.  International award-winning research in West Michigan identified nine key points in the collection and distribution of food where what exactly is done and how it is done makes a huge difference in costs and outcomes–likely enough to be the difference between a community’s being able to adequately address its hunger problem, or not being able to.

For example, if a charity food agency promotes traditional food drives, what it is promoting is having its supporters pay full retail prices for the food given, and for them to donate that food in ways that are not tax-deductible.   If instead the agency promoted its supporters donating money, the agency could likely acquire 10 to 20 times more food for the same amount of money from the area’s food bank, and the donors could likely claim a charitable gifts tax deduction for their gift.  Where $10 could have put $10’s worth of food into the charity system at a cost to the donor of $10, the same $10 could put as much as $200 worth of food into the system at a cost to the donor of only $7.50!

Over on the distribution side, the possible improvements are equally large, the largest one being how food is given to needy people:  If they are handed a bag assembled by someone other than them, chances are good they won’t be able to use as much as half of what they are given.  Far better they be permitted to assemble their own bag from all the products that are available, because then they will be able to use all that they take.

The bottom line on those three changes–agencies should:

  • Collect money instead of food,
  • Acquire food from the area’s food bank instead of from stores, and
  • Let clients pick out their own food instead of being handed a collection of things they possibly cannot use.

These three intiatives combined, can create up 52 times better leveraging of help per dollar spent.  That is equivalent of having 52 times more money than you have had!

With that much more money and food available, then food pantries can address some of the other critical issues our research identified:  how often people are permitted to draw food aid, what hoops they have to jump through to qualify, how much food they are permitted to take, etc.

Our research’s findings and recommendations can be found on the “Resources” page of our web site:  www.FeedingAmericaWestMichigan.org  and can be downloaded and printed free.  Look for “Charity Food Programs That Can End Hunger In America”.


Could an open-source donation work?



By Ed Nicholson

So I’ve got this idea.
I’ve been reading  Here Comes Everybody  by Clay Shirky, and he’s describing how Linus Torvalds envisioned Linux as a a community-developed operating system, using an open-source model.  A collaboration of bright minds and refined skills. Obviously, it was a great vision.
And I’m thinking: Wonder if we could do an "open-source" food donation. Commit a certain amount of food and let the community decide how it should be donated.
Here’s what I’m thinking. Tell me if you think it would work: 

Tyson Foods would commit a truckload of Tyson products (35,000 pounds), to be donated to a Feeding America member food bank. (you can find out which one the 200 food banks serves your area by going here).  You tell us how it should be donated. 

Here are the only requirements:

  • It has to generate awareness. Either for the issue of hunger, or for the people and organizations invovled every day in the fight against hunger.   
  • It has to go to a Feeding America food bank.

Here are factors that would  be strongly considered:

  • Engagement.  Will it compel people to actually do something?
  • Creation of community.  Does it provide a means by which people will continue to stay engaged.
  • Creative use of social networking tools.

Here’s what it wouldn’t need to do:

  • Sell Tyson products.  Honestly.  This wouldn’t be a cause related marketing effort (not that there’s anything wrong with that). We’re sincerely trying to enage as many people as possible in the issue of hunger, and we don’t want to put anyone off by making them feel as though we’re "using" them to sell products.
  • Require a financial commitment to execute (I only have chicken to work with). 


So there you go.  What do you think?  Would people participate? 

photo by  James Cridland, Creative Commons, Flickr  

Scoring off the field with the Razorbacks.

By Ed Nicholson



A cold morning at Don Reynolds Stadium

Today we’re live-blogging from the University of Arkansas’s Don Reynold’s stadium, where we’re partnering with the Arkansas Razorbacks, and Lift Up America to distribute a truckload of Tyson products to agencies of the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank.

We have Tyson chairman, John Tyson, UofA athletic director, Jeff Long, Dave Hannah, CEO of Lift Up America, and a bunch of Razorback athletes and and spirit squad members, all braving the cold to help load boxes of chicken into trucks, vans and trailers going to non-profit agencies serving the needy in northwest Arkansas. 

All of this started five years ago with similar donations involving the Miami Dolphins and the Kansas City Chiefs.  This is the third year we’ve done this event with the Razorbacks, one of sixteen such events we’ve done with Lift Up America and college and pro teams this year. 

We’ll be posting here as the day develops, as well as putting up Twitter messages, adding photos to Flickr, and posting videos to YouTube. 

Special shout out to Hugg & Hall for bringing out a forklift to help us get the products off the truck!