Second Harvest's Generous Helpings Event in Nashville

It’s just after half past five when we pull into the Nashville Farmers Market parking lot, a usually packed space that tonight has empty spots. Moving past men in polo shirts and khaki shorts who check our IDs at the entrance, we step out of the sun and into the high ceilings and white string lights of the Generous Helpings event—an annual affair benefiting Second Harvest of Middle Tennessee, a nonprofit dedicated to solving hunger issues in the community.

bread

The event works like this: tickets buy you admission inside ($40 ahead of time, $50 at the door) where what is usually the farmers market food court now houses 31 tables of small plates, in addition to live music, two bars and a silent auction. The tables are hosted by locally owned restaurants and food companies as diverse as Jeni’s Ice Cream and Kroger Chef Shoppes, and all proceeds from the night go towards Second Harvest’s mission to provide food for those who need it (which, last year alone, was over 15 million meals).

secondharvest_localtaco

After being given our programs and a map, Tim and I begin to work our way around the increasingly crowded room of tables arranged in a large, U-shaped pattern. And as we receive samples of tequila lime chicken tacos (from Local Taco) and pure coconut water (from Turnip Truck) and ginger limemade (from Marche), we see this event is not only raising money to combat hunger but also to raise awareness, with fact-filled hunger stats spread throughout the space.

coconut water_limeade

I hold the camera and Tim holds our tastings, and we take one bite after another, greeting the restauranteurs who are contributing to this night, finding out what they’ve made, what’s inside, taking their creations as we mill through the crowd.

amfm_1

He likes the “bold” olive tapenade bruschetta from AM@FM; I rave about the crusty sourdough (baked fresh that morning) and sauce from Bella Nashville.

secondharvest_bella3
breadandsauce

There’s a happy buzz in the air not unlike typical marketing events, where business owners are promoting their goods and hoping to be noticed, but there’s more than that, too. Although this is a great way for restaurants to gain exposure and publicity, it’s exposure and publicity with a purpose, one that benefits someone else. And as we taste biscuits topped by Delvin Farms strawberries and a Tayst lemon cake we come back for twice, Generous Helpings has us looking at more than just restaurants; it has us looking at community.

biscuits

secondharvest_cafenonna

One of the things Tim and I have talked a lot about recently is the self-promotional nature of the blogging culture. Why do we blog? Why do you, if you have one? Are people helped by what we’re doing, or are we just trying to promote ourselves, our brands, just looking to see what we can get out of it? What once felt like a friendly community today often feels like a million voices all demanding to be heard. And in this big realm of those of us who blog, where we’re offered free books and food and trips and validation, how are we using those things to serve someone else?

sweet16
taystlemoncake

I know that Second Harvest’s Generous Helpings was the kind of event that made me think about that, that made me wonder how much better it is to give than to receive.

secondharvest_PBlights

At its very core, Second Harvest is about volunteers. It relies on a network of people and organizations and companies who give their time, money and food that is then turned into food boxes, which their over 400 partner agencies can give to the hungry. Relying on a variety of different charitable programs and initiatives, Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee serves 46 counties in the state. And whether or not you’re from Tennessee, it’s a good example of how there are places like this, all over the country, that you can help in one way or another, by spreading the word, by giving your time, by contributing.

jenis

Actually, it’s a good example of how there are many ways to give: by participating in an event like this as a restaurant, by sponsoring a company like Second Harvest, by promoting someone or something that is not yourself.

secondharvest_bandsigns

We’re thankful for the reminder.

For more information on Second Harvest, visit http://secondharvestmidtn.org.

Restaurants that participated in the event:
55 South
AM @ FM
Amerigo Italian Restaurant
Bella Nashville
Cafe Nonna
Chappy’s On Church
Culinary Arts Center at Second Harvest Food Bank
F. Scott’s Restaurant and Jazz Bar
FIDO
Fish & Co
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream
Kickin’ Coffee and Tea
Kohana Japanese Restaurant
The Local Taco
Mad Platter
Marche Artisan Foods
Margot Cafe
McConnell House
Miel Restaurant
(edit: added) Nashville Culinary Arts Program
Noshville
Perl Catering
Porta Via Italian Kitchen
Porter Road Butcher
Provence Breads and Cafe
Red Pony
Riff’s Fine Street Food
Sol on Main
Solario
Sweet 16th–A Bakery
Table 3
Tayst
The Biscuit Love Truck
The Bloomy Rind::Artisan Cheeses
Turnip Truck
The Wild Hare
Watermark

*Disclosure: Our tickets were covered by Second Harvest, but we really do like them. All opinions expressed here are our own.

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 17 Comments

  1. Jacqui

    What a great event. I like how you link it back to community and blogging, and how people are working to give back, not just promote their own business or blog. It’s something that, unfortunately, many of us don’t think about enough. Thanks for this.

  2. Jennifer

    Lately I have noticed that many of the blogs I read regularly are becoming very transparent about their strategies of blogging to generate personal income. In fact, I often feel a little bombarded by people photographing their free loot and recounting the details of the all-expenses paid blogging trip, etc. (This blog not included.) Where I respect their ability to do that, it makes me somewhat uncomfortable that simply because I am interested in their lives and opinions, they are getting a payoff. It reminds me of the celebrity culture that is splashed over those magazines in the grocery store, which I avoid. I kind of miss the days when blogging was just people sharing their stories.

    1. Shannalee

      I’m really glad you left that comment, Jennifer, because you voice a perspective that I’m especially curious to hear from, that of someone who reads blogs but doesn’t write one (as far as I know at least). I wonder how many other blog readers feel that way. I’ve felt this way.

      The thing I wrestle with is that a lot of bloggers spend TONS of time doing what they do, almost like jobs, so when they get some free stuff out of it, it’s almost like their payment; but then, at the same time, you’re right, they’re getting those things not just because they’re writing but because people like you find it interesting and also, a lot of times they change their content into highly promotional stuff that can seem less valuable. Really thought-provoking.

  3. Jennifer

    Yes, my perspective is that of a blog reader only as I don’t have a blog of my own. I really enjoy reading other people’s blogs, and for the most part I haven’t been bothered by the business side of things. Sidebar advertisements especially do not bother me at all. I have the freedom to ignore them, and yet they provide good income for the blogger, which is great. Recommending products is when it starts to become a grey area in terms of what is normal and what is slightly distasteful; for example, when a blogger recommends a product they really love and use, and then is consequently asked to partner with the brand to do a giveaway or promotion, versus a well-known blogger who is first approached by the company and then as a result they produce content to match. It can be hard to tell the difference. The thing that really bothers me is bloggers who have become so successful that they seem to forget the reader is in the equation. For example, one blogger recently documented her free trip to New York to attend a bloggers meet up, where she was invited by a magazine to speak about how to turn your blog into a business. I am tempted to just quit reading that one because it almost seems like she is focused on writing for the benefit of her sponsors (and potential sponsors) and fellow bloggers only. I have given a lot of thought to this situation and I’m not sure why. :) Most people would probably just stop reading the ones they don’t like and move on!

    1. Lesley

      I completely understand what you’re saying. It’s a little disheartening for those of us who just write about what we like to eat and (in my case), occasionally get offered something free to review.

      But I did want to point out that bloggers are required to disclose what they receive free. So the way they indicate it may seem gratuitous when they’re really trying to come up with some different way to avoid a footnote. Just a thought. And it doesn’t make it all that less annoying. Plenty of really great bloggers never accept anything (101 Cookbooks comes to mind).

      1. Shannalee

        That’s true, Lesley. Bloggers are required to state when they blog about something they got for free—but the concern is that they give their honest opinions and still work to preserve their voice. Thanks for your feedback from another blogger (and you’re from Nashville, I see! Hi!).

  4. Jacqui

    When blogs start sounding like commercials, I tend to stay away. I don’t think it’s wrong or unethical for bloggers to promote products — if that’s part of the goal of their blog, then good for them for being able to succeed in that. And seeing as these blogs often have huge followings, it’s clear that many readers don’t care about the promotions. Personally, I enjoy blogs that I can connect with, not that can recommend the best product. That said, if a blogger I connect with recommends a good product, I’m more likely to try it out.

  5. Joanna

    I approach this topic more as a blog reader than a blogger (my blog is small potatoes). A couple thoughts:

    I think bloggers have a hugely influential reach and do amazing work, most of it unpaid, so if he or she can get some type of financial benefit from the work they do anyway, I’m all for it.

    If a blogger accepts any type of swag, whether it be a free trip, product, or anything else, and isn’t totally transparent about it, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. With many bloggers, it’s hard to tell if they’re promoting a product because they like it or because they have a sponsor. I’d much rather read, “Hey, I’m talking about this because I like it!” or “This post is sponsored, but the opinions are my own,” than have to guess. Shanna, you do an excellent job with this. Especially with the Dole post. We readers got a report of your trip, your genuine thoughts (not just the sugar-coated ones), and learned something from it.

    Which brings me to my last thought–something Jennifer pointed out above, too. When a blog becomes too self-conscious (posting about blogger events, posting about other media events, detailing swag/trips/whatever, even regularly blogging about how they take photos or the mechanism behind their blogs), I quickly lose interest. Suddenly the blog isn’t being written for me anymore (if it ever was), it’s being written for a very select group of people. And the circle of creativity and originality gets smaller!

    I read blogs for an authentic voice. If I don’t know the first name of the blogger after reading a few posts and poking around his or her site for a minute or two, I’m out of there.

    Can you tell I think a lot about this, too? Great topic!

    1. Shannalee

      So true, Joanna. And PS isn’t it illegal to take products and not disclose it? I’m not super up-to-date on blogging law, but I thought a while ago everyone was abuzz about how bloggers are required to say when they get something free. So if that’s true and some bloggers don’t—REALLY bad taste.

  6. Shannalee

    Yeah, I think Jacqui says it well when she says if a blog sounds like a commercial, she tends to stay away. And yet at the same time, we see those commercial-sounding blogs have huge followings so obviously not everyone cares. Really interesting discussion because as more and more companies try to tap into the blog world, more and more bloggers (and readers) will be wrestling with the ethics of it. Thanks for this input, ladies!

  7. Melissa

    I find it interesting you left out the Nashville State Culinary Arts program as one of the Groups who participated. They put out two great dishes. Plus, not only were their student chefs volunteering, it was during their summer break so they weren’t getting class credit or anything to be there. They were there for the sheer joy of cooking and to support Second Harvest. Nice bunch of kids – though they all weren’t “kids.”

    1. Shannalee

      Thanks for mentioning that, Melissa. Wasn’t intentional–I hope I didn’t miss anyone else! I can’t find a website for the NSCA online but if you know of one, I’ll be happy to add that in, as well.

  8. Vicki

    If it helps, when I read this entry I wouldn’t have guessed you didn’t pay to attend this event yourself if you hadn’t mentioned something at the end. Love the discussion thread here about blogs. I’ve often toyed whether or not I should start a blog, mainly because I’ve wondered what I would have to offer to the masses. Currently I’m toying with an idea but first I’m drafting an action plan to clearly identify the purpose of the blog. I also read somewhere that it helps to draft like the first 10 posts not only to ensure you can generate content but to make sure your posts align with the purpose of the blog.

    1. Shannalee

      Would love to see your site if you do start a blog, Vicki. For what it’s worth, I think one of the benefits of blogging is that it can grow with you, so don’t be afraid to start on that count. Of course you’re definitely ahead of the pack by strategizing your mission and initial content, and I think that’s cool.

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