What would it be like if our neighbors didn’t have to go without food? This is the question that Ladawna Parham has been thinking about for ten years since she began working with Nourish Food Bank. She recalls arriving early one morning and discovering that a woman had passed out, and an ambulance was called because she had gone so long without eating. This experience fueled Parham’s passion for growing and expanding Nourish because “it is unacceptable for any of our neighbors to have to go without food or not know where to turn for help.”
A decade ago, the Symrna-La Vergne location provided around 79,000 meals a year. They now have three locations and are on track to provide 1 million meals in 2023. Spend just a few minutes talking to Parham, and you quickly realize how vital Nourish Food Bank is to the area. Just in Rutherford County, they are supplying meals and basic needs to 3000 people per month. Nourish Food Bank strives to make itself as accessible as possible, including availability on some nights and weekends. They also have one distribution center located directly on a bus route, as transportation can be a serious barrier to getting help.
Nourish serves a wide variety of homes in this growing area. In addition to the pick-up locations, they deliver to those who are elderly, medically vulnerable, and disabled. Similarly, items are supplied to those with non-traditional housing. Meals go out to domestic violence shelters, children’s homes, and a large number of families who live in campgrounds or low-budget hotels. Volunteers choose goods based on each family’s needs, namely their ability to store and refrigerate non-perishables and access cooking appliances. The thoughtful care and consideration that goes into these selections make a big difference for the clients they serve and also helps to ensure that no food goes to waste.
Timing is important too. For example, a traditionally-housed family is equipped with a full week’s worth of meals – breakfast, lunch, and dinner – for every member of the home. However, homeless individuals may come more frequently as they are limited in their ability to store or prepare large amounts of food. During school breaks and holidays, meal kits are supplied for students who typically receive free or reduced lunch rates.
When possible, Nourish supplements with diapers, formula, hygiene products, and even pet food. Parham believes that eliminating the stress of these basic needs can free up the family to focus on other things to help them build sustainability, such as vehicle expenses, medical visits, utilities, or childcare.
The intake process at Nourish ensures no one is turned away without food. Equally important, families are assessed for their goals to help them receive additional resources available through partner organizations, including drug & alcohol rehabilitation, counseling, and transitional housing. The appreciation from clients is genuine and frequent. Staff members share the countless times they have been told, “Thank you! We couldn’t do this without you! You treat us like we really matter.”
The past few months have been challenging as supply chain issues continue to trickle down. This food bank was previously receiving around 30 different items from the USDA, but now only one item is available – diced tomatoes. Parham says Nourish is currently low on everything. Food drives are one of the best ways to partner with this organization. These can be set up through your company, school, neighborhood, or scout troop.
Nourish Food Bank’s vision is to be continuously and fully stocked by the community and not as dependent on federal commodities. They love to partner with businesses, individuals, and groups for both financial and volunteer support. Volunteers are the life of this organization, so there’s a job available for every age. Any type of entity is encouraged to reach out to learn how you, too, can be a part of serving your neighbors.