Spencer Taylor witnessed first-hand the need in his community at the start of the pandemic. During meal distributions, families with five or six kids would come every time they were there because they relied on school meals. He remembers the little kids carrying bulk items to their homes.
“I’m glad we’re there. I’m glad we were able to provide that service to the folks that needed it,” Taylor said. “Definitely, it’s hard to see that there’s so much need, and the pandemic really opened our eyes to all of those things.”
He recently came back from 15 months of service at the United States Army Reserve.
Taylor has been a member of the reserves since he was a teenager and now serves as a medical officer. But when he is not in uniform, Taylor continues his life of service as executive director of nutrition services at the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. Every day he works hard to ensure 74,000 students receive the meals they need to thrive.
“I’m the same person as a military reserve member as I am here working in the district,” he shared. “I would call myself a citizen soldier… just a community servant.”
The Nashville metropolitan area has grown a lot in recent years. Companies are opening offices and new residents arrive to the city every day, bringing economic opportunities, but also raising the cost of living for many of its original residents.
“What has happened to Nashvillians who have been here for a while and those generations of families that continue to try to establish their lives and their children’s lives and their grandchildren is that they’re seeing the city get more unaffordable around them,” explained Taylor. “ And it’s creating a situation where there’s not affordable housing for some of our communities that support our schools. The kids and the families that go to our schools are getting priced out.”
Like many districts across the nation, Nashville was able to provide meals thanks to the USDA waivers that made it easier to serve meals for children. Congress has failed to extend critical child nutrition waivers and as a result, hungry kids across the country may miss out on more than 95 million meals this summer and many more next school year.
“We have not recovered,” said Taylor, calling on Congress to extend the waivers. “We don't want to cut back and cheapen the things that we serve and offer our kids just to make the bottom line, which makes our programs less healthy, less desirable, and it just does not send a good message to the community, if school meals are just any old thing that we can afford.”
The district continues to support families with food to take home over the weekends and connects families in need to local community partners and food banks. Taylor is grateful to have No Kid Hungry as a partner. Over the years, with our funding, they have purchased carts to implement breakfast after the bell and today No Kid Hungry staff continues to be in touch with the district to ensure the school meals program is the best it can be for kids and families.
Talking about No Kid Hungry’s staff, Taylor shared, “I’m glad they continue to give that support and engagement to us, because it keeps us conscious. We’re always working on these things every day, but sometimes our time and attention gets pulled in other areas, and we’re like, ‘oh man, thanks for reminding me. I need to research and get back on that.’ I’m appreciative to have that kind of support.”
Taylor will continue serving his community “until food insecurity is no more.” Join us to ensure kids get three meals a day 365 days a year.