How did Food in the Fort come about?
We recognized a need for a food pantry in the 7916 zip code—Fort Sanders. Fort Sanders has some radically underprivileged renters, and a decent-size number of homeless who transient through the area. We started as a pantry, but this year we began transitioning to open the doors of access to fresh, locally grown produce. It's a food justice initiative. Our long-term goal is to mentor our neighbors towards the leadership of their own solutions.
Your group grows produce at Beardsley Farm—are you one of the gardeners?
I am not. Nor do I cook. I'm an instigator. College student volunteers and some others help with the gardening, and two nutrition students come and prepare a small, simple, healthy recipe for the friends and neighbors in the Fort. That way, they can taste a sample and have a recipe card and some produce to do this at home.
Is any of the produce a hard sell?
The most interesting is okra. It has such a stigma attached. But our nutrition students fixed it in sort of a stir fry with squash and peppers. It was amazing how many people came back wondering if we had more okra to give out.
Have you always been a minister?
I have not. About 20 years ago I was a manager with UPS in Nashville. I spent about 15 years in some bad things, even into my life into upper management. I was in a bad place with drugs, and went through a fairly profound spiritual change in my life. And I decided I wanted share this kind of life change with others. Here's what I have: an undying passion just for the poor, oppressed, and the homeless. This is the first time I've done something this comprehensive in trying to initiate ways we can bring wholeness and wellness to the lives of those living on the margins of our society
To volunteer: redeeminghope.com