Tragedy struck Southeast Nashville in May of 2010. Dozens of inches of rain fell across the region causing catastrophic floods – affecting community centers, homes, and businesses. Recovery efforts took over two years, but community members still felt there were unmet needs in the area. Enter The Branch of Nashville.
What started as a food pantry – offering a cart full of groceries to their clients – The Branch began to discover there was an unexpected barrier to advancing hunger solutions in Southeast Nashville. The people they aimed to serve were predominantly non-English speaking, found English to be isolating, and restrictive to their earning potential. So, The Branch pivoted their model and introduced an English Learning Language Program.
Around half of The Branch’s client base is Hispanic or Latino, and, for this Hispanic Heritage Month, The Branch would like to take a moment to highlight what the fight against hunger means for the Hispanic Community of Middle Tennessee. Saraí Tovar, Community Relations Manager at The Branch, said, “Food in the Hispanic community is more than a way to sustain the body. It sustains our souls.” Advancing hunger solutions is about much more than ensuring as many people as possible have food on their table – it means making sure their needs, both nutritional and cultural, are being met. “On the Día de Los Muertos,” for example “people take their deceased loved ones their most favorite dishes and place them on their graves, decorating their graves with fresh fruit, vegetables, flowers and desserts” Saraí reminded us.
The Branch has been a partner agency of Second Harvest since their inception through our offering of guidance on establishing a food pantry, and providing The Branch with food. While Second Harvest is proud to help The Branch put food on the table for our neighbors in Southeast Nashville, we are also thankful for their guidance to us as well. After noticing minor food waste issues in their food pantry, The Branch offered an amazing suggestion – prioritizing culturally appropriate food for the people they serve. “We can honestly say that The Branch would not exist without their support!” said Saraí.
While The Branch has pioneered massive strides in advancing hunger solutions in Southeast Nashville, there is still much work to be done. Saraí envisions a food pantry that can routinely stock “staple foods from across Latin America so when our Hispanic clients come to obtain food from us, they can look at their carts and get a smile because a bag of chile de árbol seco or a container of Nescafé Clasico are among the items they received that day.” As The Branch continues to nourish, educate, and equip their neighbors so they can build a thriving community, we must take a moment to champion this powerful work!