How FeedWells is fighting food insecurity one summer meal at a time

Fresh produce, farm tours and more await Memphis-Shelby County students this summer thanks to the food service provider's summer meal program.
FeedWells has partnered with Memphis-Shelby County Schools to help keep kids fed over the summer. | Photo courtesy of Flyght Studios

While summer break brings fun and excitement for many students, for some, it can also come with the worry of where their next meal will come from. Students at Memphis-Shelby County Schools Memphis in Tennessee, however, won’t miss a meal this summer thanks to a feeding program being put on by FeedWells, a foodservice provider based out of Memphis.

FeedWells first began working with Memphis-Shelby during the early days of COVID-19 to help provide emergency meal service while the district was shut down.  

“We received a call from their leadership team asking for our assistance and that is what actually launched us into charter and private schools,” says FeedWells CEO BreAnna Boyd.

Today, the food service provider continues to work with the district to keep students fed during the summer months and has also partnered with other organizations in the community to fight food insecurity.

Putting students at the center of menu planning

When setting out to develop the menu for its summer feeding program, FeedWells decided to base its offerings around student feedback.

“We actually found it very helpful if we involve our students in the menu planning,” says Boyd.

Students are asked to fill out a quick survey which asks them questions about their menu preferences. One of the questions that has been most helpful to the team, Boyd says, is asking students to pick one country whose cuisine they would like to see on the menu.

“That's been our most powerful tool that we've had,” says Boyd.

For example, when the survey revealed that most students selected Mexico as their answer, the team decided to offer a themed Mexican meal, complete with a mariachi band and passports that students received when they entered the cafeteria.

A global-themed menu based on the survey data is now offered monthly to students.

Fresh from the farm

New to the program this year is fresh produce sourced from two 10-acre farms located in Ripley, Tennessee. FeedWells decided to invest in the farms earlier this year to have easier access to local ingredients.

“With the foodservice industry, sometimes it's hard to get fresh produce just based on who your vendor may be and so we wanted to take on that initiative on our own,” says Boyd.

Thanks to the farms, the foodservice provider now has access to fresh leafy greens, berries, oranges and more. The produce has already made its way into meals this summer, where it has been met positively by students.

“Our students are very vocal. I'll tell you that,” says Boyd. “They noticed the difference right off the bat.”

In addition to receiving fresh produce, the farm also allows students to participate in farm-to-school activities including visiting the farms to meet the farmers and learning how to grow their own food.

Fighting food insecurity

While FeedWells’ home base is in Memphis, Boyd says the company has already expanded to New Orleans and is continuing to look for other opportunities to grow going forward.

One area for potential growth is the provider’s before and aftercare meals program which it launched in partnership with theYMCA of Memphis and Boys and Girls Club to provide before and aftercare meals to students.

“We just added another, like, 5,000 plus meals last week,” she says. “So that is a good program that we're running, and we're looking to expand that in other markets also.”

Wherever the FeedWells team ends up next, Boyd says the company’s core goal of fighting food insecurity will remain the same.

“Our focus is to really serve as another resource to address food insecurity,” says Boyd. “Because, as you know, not every child receives a meal at home, right? And so, that's why we started the company, to really serve as a resource and to combat food insecurity.”



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