Closed Caption Transcript:
Hello, my name is Jeff Williams and I am the founder and executive director of Taste Project. We run a nonprofit eatery called Taste Community Restaurant. There are no prices on our menu at all and anyone can come into the restaurant regardless of their ability to pay and have a meal. If you've never been to the restaurant. This is what you see when you enter. We aim to do three things at taste. First, we provide people with the ability to have a restaurant quality meal regardless of their means. Second, to provide an atmosphere where people who feel welcome and are free of judgment. Third, and most important, we aim to build a community of people founded on the belief that people have value and that no one deserves to be without a meal. Taste Project's community combats food insecurity in Fort Worth. Food insecurity is defined as the lack of consistent access to enough food for an active or healthy life. This can be due to many reasons. It can be geographic. It can be because of mental illness. But economic factors are the number one reason why people are food insecure. Food insecurity does not necessarily equal hunger, but hunger is a physical symptom of food insecurity. It is just one of the physical symptoms. A common myths surrounding food insecurity and hunger in the United States is that food insecurity is a problem mainly experienced by people who are homeless or people who are in a severe poverty. This is simply not the case. In the United States, over thirty seven million people are food insecure. In Tarrant County alone, there are over 280,000 people who are food insecure. Over 106,000 of which do not qualify for any government assistance programs and are solely reliant on the charitable response through food pantries, soup kitchens and places like Taste Community Restaurant. Of the food insecure, 90 percent live in households with at least one working adult. Less than 10 percent of those who are food insecure are homeless or are in severe poverty. You might be asking yourself just who then might be food insecure. The truth is, you would not be able to tell only by looking at a person. They are your neighbors. They are your family and friends. They are single moms. They are elderly on fixed income. And they are people who have just lost jobs. People who for one reason or another have found themselves not knowing where their next meal is coming from. I have been food insecure. Growing up as a kid, My family worked very hard to put food on the table. My dad was a warehouse man for a supermarket and he was a union employee. Being a union employee, he found himself on strike and that meant he was going to be out of work for a period. During this time, my parents struggled to put food on the table for us and would sometimes themselves skip meals so that my sister and I would be able to eat. One of our go to meals was something called ditalini soup, which was just a can of tomato sauce poured into a pot. Then, using that same can fill it three times with water, adding that to the pot. And you add a couple of ounces of ditalini noodles, which is a short little macaroni, and then some sliced green onions and you would have dinner for four for under a dollar. It was tasty, but it was not something that could sustain you for a long time. It would not be enough food to keep anyone living a healthy and active lifestyle. As I have mentioned earlier, Taste Project's approach to this problem is one of community. Not a community based on geographic location, although that is certainly a part of it. What I am referring to is a group of people united by a common identity, a shared interest. A group of people serving around a common purpose. St. Augustine said, "Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay attention to those who, by accident or by time or place or circumstances, are brought in closer connection with you." There is very little that we can do on our own. I, for example, am just one person. I do not have superpowers. I cannot fly. I cannot run fast. I cannot shoot webs from my fingers. I am a chef. I cook food. I would like to say that I do it well, but in the scheme of things, it is just how I share a little bit about myself with other people. It takes a lot more people and a lot more resources than that to run a restaurant, to feed people, and to reach people in a meaningful way. At Taste, there are also greeters, hosts, servers, baristas. In the kitchen, there are onions to be chopped, garlic to be minced and chicken to be braised. It would be a full time job for many people. I'm just a single piece of that puzzle, and without a community of people, I would be nowhere and Taste would not be able to serve a single meal from the restaurant. But a group of people are only part of what makes a community. There still must be that single thing which unites that group to a common goal. At Taste, we are obviously feeding people and we are helping people and we are passionate about that. But what unites us at Taste is the idea that all people have value to society. We rally around the idea of charity. Not in the modern sense of voluntarily giving or performing different humanitarian tasks, but more in the original sense of the word Caritas, which is the Christian value of loving all humanity. It is the general principle that all people should be loved and all people are loved by God. And through that, all people intrinsically have value within society. Paul tells us, "And now abide by faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." This idea sets the foundation for which Taste Project builds its community. Taste Project is not about feeding as many people as we possibly can for as little money as we possibly can. We aim to provide a place where people can come feel dignified, feel worthy and feel valued. Regardless of your situation in life, you get the same service, you eat the same food, you get the same treatment. That is really what it's all about. Currently, our community, who we call Taste Buds, are thousands strong. And since we've opened on December 5th, 2017 we have served over 75,000 meals. That's 75,000 restaurant quality meals served to people, regardless of being able to pay for the meal or not. 75,000 meals without qualifying a person as being in need or a person having to identify themselves as being in need. You might be asking yourself, what do I do next? What can I do to help? Well, if you're a person who loves food, is passionate about seeing people fed and believe that people have value, then I welcome you to join our community of Taste Buds at Taste Project. But if you're not, maybe food is not your thing and you are still looking for a way to reach people. Look for a creative way to build a community around a common purpose. Get started by finding a group of people to help you live out what you want to do, because it is only as a community only together we can make a real lasting change in this world. Thank you, everybody, and I hope to see you soon at Taste.