Brad Paisley hopped into the cab of a backhoe Wednesday, to dig up the first pile of dirt in what will be a free grocery store designed to support needy Nashville families.
The Store, a partnership with Paisley’s alma mater, Belmont University, will be on the Belmont campus, next to the university’s Ministry Center (which will provide healthcare and legal-aid clinics).
Paisley and his wife, actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley, got the idea for The Store after spending time volunteering with their kids at the Unity Shoppe in Santa Barbara, California.
“Hunger and food insecurity is a real issue in Nashville,” Williams-Paisley said. “One in seven people deal[s] with food insecurity. That means they don’t know where their next meal is coming from. And it’s even worse for kids – one in five children.”
Paisley said this store model “takes away the sting” for struggling parents who might otherwise feel embarrassment at not being able to provide for their kids.
The construction phase is expected to wrap up by the end of this year.
The store will be run like any other grocery store, so people can go shopping through the aisles and select the items they want. Belmont University students and other volunteers will scan their items at the checkout, but no money will change hands.
“Kids should not know what their parent is going through,” he said. “That’s not stress a child needs.” So even riding the mechanical horse out front will be free.
Williams-Paisley said the aim is to reach people before hunger becomes a “major crisis.” She added, “We want to help people in this gap where they are trying to get back on their feet.”