Why Brad Paisley Is Opening A Grocery Store Where Customers Won’t Pay A Cent

“All of us are one unforeseen disaster away from rock bottom."

Country singer Brad Paisley and actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley are teaming up with Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, to open a food bank that mimics a grocery store. But there's one catch — it's free. 

The husband-and-wife pair explain that their project, simply called The Store, is meant for those who are struggling.

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"This is a grocery store with dignity for people who have fallen on hard times," Paisley, president of The Store's board of trustees, tells The Tennessean. "All of us are one unforeseen disaster away from rock bottom. It's nice to think about a place where when that happens to someone, they can use it to get back on their feet." The Store will be near Belmont University's Ministry Center, and will provide fresh and nonperishable groceries to those who need it for one year. Additionally, they hope to provide a toy aisle during the holidays. The Store aims to serve 3,000 people per year, the publication reports. 

The Store is meant to be a "temporary Band-Aid on the road to self-sufficiency," Williams-Paisley adds.

The inspiration for The Store began one Thanksgiving when Paisley took his family to volunteer at the Unity Shoppe in Santa Barbara, California. The Unity Shoppe also "operates a year-round 'free' grocery and clothing store so people can shop with dignity for their basic needs," according to its website. 

"We took our boys to Unity Shoppe to teach them about serving others and giving back to people in need," Paisley says, according to The Store's website. "And we came away surprised by what the organization had taught us."

"Most people don't want handouts," Paisley adds. "They want dignity and respect. Most people want to become self-sufficient."

Food insecurity, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, is the measurement "of a lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all members of a given household, and limited or uncertain ability of nutritionally adequate foods." It's an issue that exists across in the country, Feeding America reports, noting that in 2016, more than 41 million people qualified as food insecure in the U.S., though not everyone qualifies for federal nutrition assistance. 

Feeding America reports that "97 percent of counties include families facing hunger who are likely ineligible for federal nutrition assistance and, as such, must rely on charitable food banks to help put meals on their tables."

The fact that The Store will provide fresh foods is important, too, considering the "food deserts" that exist in the United States. Food deserts are (typically impoverished) places where there is limited access to fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthy foods. Places like this can force residents to shop at "local quickie marts" stocked with unhealthy foods, thus contributing to the nation's overall obesity levels. Moreover, food banks typically provide nonperishable foods, rather than fresh foods, to those in need. 

"A philosophy of community empowerment means we aim to solve hunger issues in our community by developing programs to meet the needs of the community, including partnering with other organizations on issues of food security. We believe in cooperation and collaboration between organizations to better serve the population," it says on The Store's website. It also plans to develop services such as job training, cooking, and nutrition classes. 

The Store is currently working to raise money for a storefront and for operational needs with the goal of breaking ground in 2019. You can read more about the effort here

(H/T: Scary Mommy

Cover image: Tinseltown / Shutterstock.com

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