Mariah Ragland—The Nashville Food Project
Updated: Apr 13
Grow, Cook, Share—The Nashville Food Project
Think about times you have been hungry. Have you ever missed multiple meals? Have you not known where your next meal was coming from? One in every seven people in Nashville experiences food insecurity every day. Nearly 1,000 volunteers every month have looked back on their own experiences of hunger—however brief or long—and decided that they don’t want their neighbors to go without. They put their love of food and their love of people to work at The Nashville Food Project (NFP).
The Food Project serves 200,000 fresh-cooked, nutritious meals each year! With only 22 staff members, they can do what they do only because of the volunteers who grow, cook, and share the food.
Grow. Scattered around Nashville are five small—but very productive—organic gardens. Volunteers help with preparing the beds, planting, weeding, harvesting the food, and even composting. Although the largest garden is only 1.5 acres, these gardens produce all year long. In addition to the summer growing season, they work in the winter too—because volunteers tend them.
Cook. Preparing 200,000 meals annually means lots and lots of cooking! Yet NFP faithfully turns them out daily except Sunday and Monday, using only two kitchens—and lots of volunteers who wash, chop, dice, and cook lots of fresh vegetables and fruits and other ingredients for lots of entrees, salads, side dishes, and sometimes desserts. Volunteers also contribute through the Project’s food recovery program, gleaning from a grocery store items that are about to expire, which they then turn into meals.
Share. With only two trucks, NFP nevertheless manages with the help of volunteers to deliver all the meals to partner organizations serving persons in need. Those include among others low-income senior citizens at a center, a church with a community meal, an apartment building that houses refugee families from the Congo, and school children in need of a snack.
Mariah Ragland, a former volunteer and now the volunteer coordinator, invites individuals, families, and groups to participate. Neither experience nor expertise is required. Everyone who comes will be supported by others helping them know what to do and how. Service can be one-time or regular. Sign up is online and easy.
Volunteers, who are themselves nourished by food, also are fed by being part of the mission of The Nashville Food Project: Bringing people together to grow, cook, and share nourishing food, with the goals of cultivating community and alleviating hunger in our city.
To learn more or to volunteer, visit thenashvillefoodproject.org and look for the Give Back tab.
If you are not in the area, you may find similar opportunities by searching for “hunger” or “food justice” in your browser. You may also check to see if your locality is in a Hands On...network.