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.

 

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.

Monsanto, ADM and the fight against hunger. A good partnership?

Before I go further, let me state the following is my personal opinion, not necessarily that of Tyson Foods, or anyone else in the company.

I ran across a post on my Facebook news feed yesterday from Feeding America talking about their Invest an Acre partnership with Monsanto, ADM, and the Howard Buffett Foundation, in which they’re encouraging farmers to pledge an acre of their production, the benefits of which would go to Feeding America.
The comment section was lit up.  Massive flames.  The gist: Feeding America has sold out to the evil empire of Monsanto.  Shame on them.  Boycott.  Occupy.
Let me offer a different perspective (and I can speak with some authority):  Corporations are not monolithic empires.  The most successful ones—and no matter your opinion of Monsanto, it is successful, as is Feeding America—are made up of  diverse collections of people. They don’t all think and act alike. Each and every day their cultures evolve, influenced by this diversity.
The hunger relief community has the capacity to influence the culture within Monsanto (again, I speak with some authority).  Much more so than Monsanto has the capacity to influence Feeding America.   But they can’t do it if they’re lobbing nuclear bombs.
If you truly care about hunger relief, you should want the people who drove the Feeding America partnership (and I’ve never met any of them) to be successful within Monsanto.  They’re the progressive thinkers within the company.  They’ll have their naysayers (one would hope not many), stating, “This is an exercise in futility. There’s no way our company benefits from this.”  Let me suggest that blanket invective only gives support to the naysayers and diminishes the influence of those who advocate for positive change.  Do we want that?
If you truly care about hunger relief, you should want the thousands of farmers who use Monsanto products and sell to ADM to be engaged in the issue.  They’re in the business of feeding people, and they do it quite well.  If their energy, intelligence and innovation can be rallied around the issue of hunger, there’s enormous capacity to move the needle.
I don’t agree with everything Monsanto has done and stands for.  But I do believe condemning Feeding America for engaging them and America’s farmers in the fight against hunger—a positive step—is counterproductive.
Flame-retardant suit donned.

 

 

Let’s talk

 

 

 

by Ed  Nicholson

Last week I was in a meeting with a major national non-profit organization.  It’s a great organization, that’s doing notable work toward its very worthy cause.   It’s full of thought leaders at the highest level. 
The representatives meeting with me described a complex national strategy to address the issue at hand.   One that was going to take the buy-in, cooperation, and financial commitment of a wide variety of stakeholders: government representatives, corporate partners, foundations and thousands of individual donors.
When I asked them about their online plans to take this strategy to their stakeholders, I drew a blank.
Their online communications strategy is the exclusive property of their marketing group–whose objectives are to create brand awareness and raise donations.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but…
They have thought leaders.  They have a strategy.  They have a message.
What would they have to lose by letting some of their thought leaders discuss that strategy online?

 

photo by PinkMoose–Creative Commons. Flickr

Who’s sticking their nose in your business?

 

       

 

                                                                                                 image davi sommerfeld  Creative Commons–flickr

 

By Ed Nicholson

Sorry for the week’s hiatus.  I was out talking about social media last week–instead of participating in it. 

At Tyson, we’ve been involved in hunger relief for nine years.  Well, actually for the first couple of years, we weren’t really involved–we just threw money and food at it.  Just like all the other good work "campaigns" we’d ever done before. 
But then an interesting thing happened.  We started visiting foodbanks during donations; getting to know their work.  We went to conferences, and heard a diversity of inspiring speakers.  Our employees started doing hunger relief work in their own communities. 
In the process, we became engaged.  Hunger relief has become an important part of what we’re doing as a company.
But sometimes it does complicate the relationship we have with our non-profit partners.
Now that we have some time invested in the issue, we have opinions.  We ask questions.  Sometimes we challenge conventions. Some might see it as interfering where we don’t belong.   We’re not always right, but we’re engaged. 

So here’s your chance to  voice an opinion and help us become better partners.  Please comment:   Where do we draw the line between contributing and meddling?  Should we produce food and leave the strategic work to the experts?  If you’re a non-profit, does it aggravate you that someone from the outside would presume to tell you how to do your job?  Would it be a better world if ultimately corporations were not even involved in social issues? 
 
You know I love dissent.  So let me have some.