Around the Dinner Table, Communities Unite in the Fight to End Hunger

By Beth Harris
April 23, 2018
Members of the community share a meal in Charlotte, N.C. on handcrafted tables made by Neighbor’s Table

Some of the most honest and impactful conversations I’ve ever had happened around my dinner table.

The table is a place of community, of equity, of vulnerability. And in our increasingly digital age, the lost art of simple dinner conversation can yield insight, empathy and inspiration, changing the minds — and sometimes lives — of those sharing a meal together.

Seeking to tap this remarkable, connecting power, Walmart and Nextdoor recently partnered with Neighbor’s Table to hold a series of events across the U.S. focused on bringing diverse groups together to discuss the nation’s hunger crisis and how communities might best address it. And it is a crisis. One in eight Americans may not know where their next meal is coming from.

Charlotte’s Druid Hills neighborhood hosted our first event. Around the table sat representatives from local food banks, police and other public services, as well as local residents. I spoke with two of the people who joined the table talk to get their perspectives on hunger — both agreed simple conversation is a big part of the solution.

Nadine Ford manages two community gardens in the Charlotte area. She teaches the benefits of gardening to a new generation, and the fruits of her labor help feed her community. She’s passionate about ensuring people who’ve actually experienced hunger have a voice in finding solutions for the problem.

“Most of the time, when decisions are made about neighborhoods in need, the people making the decisions have never had to worry about their next meal,” she says. “The system is truly skewed, but it’s not that hard to fix. We just have to reach out and listen and be led, instead of doing the leading.”

Kay Carter, CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina, was another voice at the table. Her food bank serves a 19-county region in North and South Carolina, supporting over 700 partner agencies. And even though she’s spent most of her career in social services or at the food bank, Kay heard a number of ideas and points of view she’d never considered before.

“I think most of the world’s problems can be solved just by having a conversation,” Kay says. “[Margaret Mead] has a quote to that effect — ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’”

Change is coming to Charlotte. Community leaders from around the table are staying connected after the event and continuing the discussion on hunger. The local Walmart team quickly stepped up to help Nadine’s garden with a generous donation and the power of over 30 volunteers to turn empty fields into fertile plots. And all of this came from one simple conversation.

Editor’s Note: You can virtually join a live table conversation from 2:30 ─ 3:30 p.m. CT on April 30 via @WalmartTech on Twitter. Hosted at Walmart Technology’s Austin satellite HQ, this discussion is an effort to tie together technology, civic engagement and nonprofit organizations in partnership with Nextdoor and Neighbor’s Table.