When actress and activist Kimberly Williams-Paisley and her husband Brad saw a problem of food insecurity in their hometown of Nashville they decided to do something about it. Together with their sons, they created the concept of The Store, which will be a free grocery store allowing those in need to shop with dignity like they would at any other store. This is such a special initiative and we want to honor this mom with a vision on Mother’s Day!
ODP: Aside from serving your Nashville community, do you hope to influence people who have been heartened by The Store to take the first step in tackling hunger in their own communities?
KWP: Yes. In fact, we think The Store is a great model for anyone to try in their own community. We are excited to be partnering with Belmont University for the wealth of student volunteers interested in participating, as well as the educational component. Belmont is a well-established part of Nashville, and a great resource for us. I’d encourage people to look for a similar partnership in their own areas.
ODP: It was written that you and Brad got the idea for starting The Store after taking your sons to volunteer at a food bank in Santa Barbara, how did you address the concept of hunger with your own boys since they’re both still pretty young?
We took them to volunteer at Unity Shoppe in Santa Barbara, which isn’t exactly a food bank. Similarly to The Store, Unity Shoppe resembles a grocery store more than a food bank, so customers can choose items they want and need, and feel more dignity than when they get a hand out. Our boys loved volunteering at Unity, and they were also learning about what goes into running a store. The people they met felt “normal” to them, they said, so there was less of an “us” vs. “them” mentality, and I think that is what we focus on with our kids more than anything. They go there to help run a store.
ODP: Climate change is increasing food insecurity around the world and will likely do so in the United States as well. From your experience in conceptualizing and building The Store, do you have any lessons of how we can bring more awareness to the issue of food insecurity and that it’s up to our entire society to address it?
I just got back from Guatemala where climate change is really affecting food insecurity because of the loss of agriculture. This is a global issue, and something we need to tackle as a global community. We can buy products in the US from the farms in Guatemala and when they and other countries suffer, we suffer. Also, when countries are less stable, when there is hunger and violence, there are more refugees, which also affects our community, as we have seen. We will focus on education at The Store in terms of ways to grow sustainable produce in our own homes, find and support more local farms, and ultimately we hope that allowing for more choice will create less waste.
What’s been an unexpected lesson you’ve learned throughout this process?
It is a lot of work to start a nonprofit! There is a ton of fundraising going into it, obviously, and a lot of logistics and details to work out. But what’s also surprised us is the enthusiasm we’ve gotten from the local community and beyond. Seeing a tweet from Barack Obama in support of our efforts was incredible.
For a fun question, who’s a better cook, you or Brad? What’s your/his signature dish?
Neither of us is very good, but at least I try. I make a great chicken soup, and the kids and I like to make “Monk stew,” which is a vegetarian lentil-based stew.
*A big thanks to Kim for taking the time to talk with us about the incredibly important topic of food insecurity. We hope you take her advice and get involved in your own community!