Service and community are key characteristics of Trevecca—and the University’s urban farm will be combining both in a project funded by a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The $35,000 USDA community planning grant will allow the University to work alongside neighbors and local partners to evaluate food security in the Napier and Chestnut Hill communities. The proposal calls for the formation of a Food Security Working Group (FSWG), which will then formulate a Community Food Security Plan to “turn a food desert into a food oasis.”
The project targets neighborhoods located within the Nashville Promise Zone and is aimed at improving access to healthy food options in the area.
“The first step is to create a working group, then review what is known,” said Jason Adkins, director of Trevecca’s Urban Farm. “We hope that the people who are most deeply affected by the lack of fresh food in the community would feel like they’ve been heard and taken seriously and also empowered to take part in creating paths to adequate nourishment that work for everyone [in the community].”
The FSWG will utilize data outlined in previous reports and studies as well as gather new information through conversations, interviews and conducting surveys with current residents. The grant provides funds to hire 15 proctors from the community to survey other neighbors about the food security issues, as well as a consultant who has experience with conducting neighborhood inventories.
Adkins also hopes that youth can be involved in the research, which he says will empower them to “discover and articulate ways we could be at work that are attentive and fruitful.”
The goal, according to the proposal, is to collect 500 surveys during the year-long grant.
“Community interviews will focus on discovering what people in the neighborhood want or think they need to have to eat in the community,” said Janice Lovell, Trevecca’s director of grants and foundation relations. “If someone is just telling you that you need to eat fruit that doesn’t have the same kind of impact. Through this grant, we’ll be collecting information from our neighbors about their food history, which will provide information but also build connections with the community.”
The project will also focus heavily on community partnerships, officials say. Once formed, the FSWG will consist of community organizations and leaders already involved in similar work—such as the Napier Community Center, Harvest Hands and Napier Elementary, among others—to better engage area residents and determine the best actions to meet the community’s needs.
Adkins says this process will allow the community to discover and utilize solutions that are already in place while also empowering neighbors to tackle newly identified problems together.
“I think the most important thing that can come out of this is that neighbors feel like they can work together to overcome problems because food security isn’t the only challenge in our zip code,” he said. “When a community sees that they’ve effectively tackled a problem and are working to solve it, they feel empowered to tackle other problems as well.”
USDA community planning grants provide a one-time infusion of federal dollars for community-based food projects but are often precursors to larger and longer-term community food project grants. This year-long planning grant provides the fund to create a food security plan, but not to implement it.
The University hopes future grants will allow them to put the plan into action.
“This type of grant is often used as a springboard to apply for a longer-term grant within the USDA to implement the plan that we discover,” Adkins said. “This isn’t a plan for plan’s sake to be stuck on a shelf somewhere, but it’s actually the first part of an action plan to enhance the life-giving power of food in our neighborhood.”