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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
We’re thankful for the reminder.
For more information on Second Harvest, visit http://secondharvestmidtn.org.
Restaurants that participated in the event:
AM @ FM
Amerigo Italian Restaurant
Chappy’s On Church
Culinary Arts Center at Second Harvest Food Bank
F. Scott’s Restaurant and Jazz Bar
Fish & Co
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream
Kickin’ Coffee and Tea
Kohana Japanese Restaurant
The Local Taco
Marche Artisan Foods
(edit: added) Nashville Culinary Arts Program
Porta Via Italian Kitchen
Porter Road Butcher
Provence Breads and Cafe
Riff’s Fine Street Food
Sol on Main
Sweet 16th–A Bakery
The Biscuit Love Truck
The Bloomy Rind::Artisan Cheeses
The Wild Hare
*Disclosure: Our tickets were covered by Second Harvest, but we really do like them. All opinions expressed here are our own.