Towards a Healthier Hopewell

“What is that?” a little girl asked the man who lived next door, as he was shucking corn.
"It's corn."
"That's corn? I have never seen it like that. I had no idea."

When the man recounted the experience to his wife, she thought he was joking. But then she began paying attention to what the neighbor kids ate when they would play in her yard. She told to me later: “I’m telling you, providing good food for our neighbors is no joke. I watch this little girl eat dinner by herself often -- she comes over to our picnic table with a bowl full of ramen and a soda. I don’t think I thought much about childhood obesity until my yard became a meeting place. It’s a big deal. People don’t have good food.”

In Hopewell, we are changing that.

These kids are learning at a young age the value of caring for widows, and how much food production can be a part of that process.  

These kids are learning at a young age the value of caring for widows, and how much food production can be a part of that process.  

With the success of Hopewell Gardens comes a healthier neighborhood. They sell to multiple restaurants, in fact--some of the best establishments in Nashville. But, they also give of their extras to neighbors in need.

“We had so much produce this week, we were able to do 8 deliveries to widows in one day,” said Seth Davis, Hopewell Gardens manager. “And the bags were overflowing -- tomatoes, peppers, garlic, onions, homemade jam, cucumbers, pickles, salad mix, blackberries. It’s wonderful seeing our neighbors faces when they open the door to a brimming bag of produce.” He shares the joy, inviting his kids and their neighborhood friends to deliver with him. They’re learning firsthand what it looks like to love your neighbor, and that part of it is making sure they’re well nourished.

A neighbor named Cindy, spoke on behalf her (now deceased) mother about these basket-bearing visits, "My mother LOVED 'her babies' when they'd come and deliver vegetables from the garden [referencing students from the Academy]. It was the highlight of her day to give them all hugs and see their precious little faces."

This is definitely a new take on food pantries filled with canned goods.

Campers at Camp Skillz enjoyed healthy breakfasts and lunches every day of camp for 6 weeks this summer.  

Campers at Camp Skillz enjoyed healthy breakfasts and lunches every day of camp for 6 weeks this summer.  

But that’s not all. Through ‘seamless summer’ we were able to continue our farm-to-table Academy lunch program through the summer. This means we offered over 3,000 meals to children this summer. Parents raved about the improvement of the program since we prepped all of our own lunches this year, as opposed to having them brought in. “You didn’t only feed my kids, you fed them well. I was so happy that all the kids had free access to breakfast and lunch every day. It was a lifesaver for parents.”

Camp Director Craig Duffy said, "This year we received only praises for how tasty the breakfast and lunches were! The campers felt good about the taste, and we felt awesome about the nutrient-dense meals being served. Our kitchen was busy with volunteer cooks making freshly prepared lunches every day. Camp Skillz is incredibly grateful to the SSO program for giving us the ability to create our own menu and thereby guaranteeing nutritious meals all summer long. We received no complaints from campers about our summer meals… simply wonderful." 

Breann Bennecker worked with volunteers and WorkWell employees to prepare more than 3,000 lunches this summer. 

Breann Bennecker worked with volunteers and WorkWell employees to prepare more than 3,000 lunches this summer. 

According to Hunger in America, In the US, over 20 million children receive free or reduced-price lunch each school day. But less than half of those get breakfast and only 10% of them have access to summer meal sites. Through the Academy for G.O.D. and Camp Skillz, we offer free lunch almost year-round. This is significant in Tennessee, which is among the top 12 most food insecure states in the nation. As Hunger in America rightly states--"hunger in America is not due to a lack of care, but a persistent presence of poverty." It’s through things like free food deliveries and hosting summer meals that we are doing our best to ensure that those in our neighborhood are not hungry.

Breann Bennecker, our seamless summer supervisor and chef says, “Organic and freshly prepared foods are sometimes expensive and only available for those who can afford it. But I'm a firm believer that children deserve the best of what we can give them. I was excited to produce a menu designed for camp, using the best of what we could offer. The students ate everything from fresh baked bread to taco salads, and they loved it. Reversing childhood obesity rates and preventing adult heart disease starts one child at a time, and even summer time can be a place for that to happen.”

It’s all worth it to her, as she recounts with tears in her eyes when one camper told her, “You really care about our meals. I have been to other places where they just buy boxes of food from the store for our meals, but you make our food every day. You really care about us.”

That. Is the goal.