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.


#GivingTuesday: It’s not about your turkey leftovers!

#GivingTuesday is not for “giving away” your Thanksgiving turkey leftovers. Nope, it’s about you and I joining the masses of kind-hearted folks giving together online! Think of it as global crowdsourced kindness.

Originally, the Gates Foundation created Giving Tuesday as a response to Cyber Monday and Black Friday. I like this new holiday as it shifts the primary focus of our spending from our own needs towards the needs of others. So, Giving Tuesday is a special day where you and I can join forces and change the world by donating online to our favorite charities.

Think of all the money spent over #BlackFriday and #CyberMonday and how much good we can do together if we instead collect our “savings” and donate it to our favorite charities like Share Our Strength‘s #NoKidHungry initiative, which does a wonderful job of raising awareness and fighting childhood hunger.

This year Tyson Foods is the proud sponsor of the #NoKidHungry Holiday Give-A-Thon and will match your donations, dollar for dollar, up to $25,000 USD. How cool is that?! So now your #GivingTuesday donation dollars go farther: double in fact!

1 in 5 children in America go to bed hungry. We can CHANGE that stat ASAP.

Who:     YOU, your friends and me!

What:    Support #NoKidHungry on #GivingTuesday!
1.  Join the #ThunderClap
2.  Donate to No Kid Hungry!

              Every dollar you donate will be matched by Tyson Foods, up to $25,000! 

When:  #GivingTuesday is all day on Tuesday, December 3, 2013.
The Thunderclap event is at 12:00 p.m. EST, tomorrow, 12/3.

Where:   Online http://nokidhungry.org/givingtuesday

Why:       Today is our day to make a difference in the lives of young children that are hungry, right here in America. Do your part and join with us to eradicate hunger this holiday!

Thank you!

Double-take on a familiar face: My reintroduction to Tyson Foods

I am now in my fifth month of my internship with Tyson Foods. To be completely honest the only thing I knew about Tyson when I began this internship was that Tyson produced chicken and that Tyson was a great employment provider for many people I knew growing up. Many of my own family members worked their first jobs in the chicken production plants.

Tyson Team Members with LULAC PresidentIn the four months I been here I have learned so much more about Tyson Foods and quite honestly I was blown away by all the work Tyson puts into giving back to the community. I personally never experienced hunger, but like many families in a tough economy, at times money gets tight and we all have to cut back on spending. Thankfully my parents were always working hard to make sure we always had meat on the table, not just bread but meat. My father in his early years was a butcher and his father before him was a butcher too; the importance of protein as a part of a daily meal was always very clear to them.

On my very first week of my internship with Tyson Foods I was sent to Las Vegas. There the company had paired up with LULAC  (League of United Latin American Citizens) and was making a donation of protein to the local food bank.  The donation was of 38,400 pounds of protein! This donation was to feed more than 100,000 Nevadans fighting hunger.

When I came back to work, the Tyson team was gearing up for yet another donation and more work around creating awareness about food insecurity, and also continuing to giving more help to Moore, Oklahoma. Little by little I discovered a new face of Tyson, the human, caring face of Tyson Foods.

My parents have always inculcated the values of being a good neighbor and giving back. To me giving back is a much greater gift. When you give back to the community you are making a change, a visible, tangible, change. Through this internship I have learned that Tyson Foods isn’t just about chicken, or beef or pork for that matter; it’s about people.

Where’s the online discussion of hunger? Year five.

Hunger DiscussionFive years ago, excited about the possibilities social channels offered to fostering a healthy national discussion about hunger, I posted a piece in this blog entitled “Where’s the Online Discussion About Hunger?”    

There’s a tremendous hunger community in this country.   I’ve learned so much from them over the past thirteen years, and am always interested in being part of the stimulating discussion that can occur when two or more get together.

But that discussion just doesn’t seem to be happening online.

I learned a lot of what I know about PR from the CompuServe PR forum.  It was a great community of folks, always involved in rich discussion, moderated by people who truly knew the business.

I’m a musician.  I love to talk about music, musical equipment, production techniques and such.   I’ve spent countless hours and learned a ton in a community created in The Gear Page forum.

Want to learn about Toyota 4-Runners ?    Soccer?    Bodybuilding?   There’s a vibrant discussion going on somewhere about almost anything you can think about.

Hunger?  Maybe not so much.

Isn’t hunger as important as all these things?  Where’s the discussion/community?     If there isn’t one, why the heck not?   Hunger folks are intelligent and passionate.   Normally not afraid to express their opinions. I ask again: Is this discussion occurring somewhere of which I’m not aware?

Food Bank Workers Should Carry Guns

Food for thought.

Food for thought.

To break into the national consciousness anymore it seems you have to either shout something divisive or unearth a scintillating scandal.
Nothing chews up a month of news cycle like imaginary girlfriends, sports doping and apocalyptic gun-control debates.
Old standbys such as hunger and under nourishment don’t stand a chance.
Maybe if the hunger-relief community was advocating for packin’ heat rather than packin’ food baskets the profile of domestic food insecurity would be raised a smidge. Of course that’s ridiculous. And that’s the point.
The fact is 15 percent of Americans are food insecure, according to Feeding America. Food insecurity is a nickel term for hunger, and it basically means those affected routinely lack adequate access to nutritious food. Frequently, they choose between food and paying bills.
That’s one in six people. That means most likely someone you know is affected.
Gun control is of course a relevant and serious topic. Obviously, there’s no real intent here to blend hunger into that quarrel.
It’s safe to say however there will be those who would never have clicked on this post if it wasn’t for the misleading headline.
Despite the fact 74 percent of Feeding America’s food pantries report ongoing increases in the number of clients that come to them for help, it’s hard to cut through the daily clutter. Over-hyped issues – significant and trivial – smother out discussions on less-sexy fodder.
Hunger is simply not naughty or politically polarizing enough for the talk-format media heads to foam at the mouth over. It’s far easier to get lost in the distraction of Justin Bieber mooning a camera, the latest Kardashian kerfuffle or an all-out shouting match about nuances of the fiscal cliff.
There are other reasons, too.
There’s the stigma of being food insecure that causes many to be unwilling to speak. There’s also the chance many feel overwhelmed by the scope of the problem. Or, with so many organizations and dollars being thrown at the issue maybe the consensus is someone else will carry the load.
Meanwhile, more than 16 million of America’s hungry are children. With guaranteed federal budget belt-tightening on the way that number is apt to get higher.
In order to generate better engagement about the issue of hunger, we’re going to have to continue to find innovative ways to tell the story.
That should start with some transparency, a good dose of passion, and yes even a sprinkle of the creative if we are to be heard.