By Paige Atwell
“Loving people unconditionally is the greatest medicine this world could ever give, and we should be distributing that medicine a lot more often.”
Over fifteen years ago, Chris Whitney had been praying hard about his calling when a simple phrase popped into his head: One Generation Away. Having absolutely no idea what it meant, but feeling God was intentionally putting it on his heart, he reserved the domain name, just in case. Today, he could tell you exactly what it means: fighting hunger. It’s just that simple.
After moving to Franklin fourteen and a half years ago, Chris and his Wife Elaine had a change of paths. While building a new church, they saw an enormous, yet simple problem in our community that they felt called to address: hunger.
“We started working out of our car, and we would fill it up with as much food as we could fit in it,” explains Chris. “Then, we would go down to public housing and places like that and just start serving people.”
In 2013, One Generation Away officially received its 501c3 certification, and in a big leap of faith, they purchased their first warehouse space that November. Six years later, One Generation Away has grown tremendously. In 2018, they held forty mobile food pantries and provided 1.5 million meals to families in need, including a few disaster relief trips. With a budget of just under $500,000, they were able to provide $5 million worth of food thanks to community and business donations. One Generation Away prides itself on partnering with local restaurants to collect and distribute food that would otherwise be wasted. These include big chains such as Whole Foods, Costco, Outback Steakhouse, Chick-Fi-La, Carrabba’s, GFS, Fresh Market, Bonefish, Cheesecake Factory and soon, even Starbucks.
“Being with Chick-Fi-La in the restaurant business, the quality is pretty high. There is a lot of waste through the restaurant industry as you try to maintain food quality,” explains Chick-Fi-La Director of Operations Jeff Hooper. “The food may not be sellable based on our companies’ standards, but the food is till good food, safe food. So,I reached out to Chris. They pick everything up and distribute it throughout the community. We are able to reach and continue to help our community in more ways than just providing an option to eat lunch and dinner.”
One Generation Away is unique in its distribution model. They collect as much food as they can from anywhere they can because there is, quite literally, no one they won’t feed. “We’ve asked people to prove that they are sufficiently deficient to get help, and that’s just not very good,” says Chris.“Imagine going your whole life like that, where I have to go prove to somebody again that I’m not worthy enough. Over time, it just erodes your humanity a little bit and your self-esteem and honor. We don’t ask any questions. You don’t need to prove anything to us.”
While One Generation Away prides itself on being a “no questions asked” organization,there is one thing they do ask each person they serve: is there anything we can pray about for you?
“The thing is, I need a segment of our population that doesn’t see hunger and that it exists to see it, and they get to see it face to face because they are looking at another human being,” explains John. The other thing we get to do is let them know, ‘hey, we care about you more than just giving you a box of food,’ We want to know what’s going on in your life. What can we pray for for you? What can we do to help you? Is there somewhere we can connect you to to get whatever else you need? 99.9% say yes.”
At the beginning of the year, One Generation saw a need with furloughed government workers. Going through the longest government shut down in history, the organization spent a day serving and donating to the employees of the IRS office in Cool Springs.
“The face of hunger is a lot different than what you think it is. Some of them are in suits, some are in nice clothes, you just never know. Most people are in a pocket or season for life that’s challenging for the moment. If we can help them bridge that gap, that’s what we’re looking for.”
With a staff of just seven, One Generation Away relies heavily on their volunteers. But according to Chris, it’s not that hard. After all, once they serve for the first time, they’re hooked. In fact, their current volunteer list has more than 1,300 people on it.
“This is food, and it’s readily available. We throw enough food away to feed the whole country,” explains Chris. “Our passion is to wipe hunger off the face of America by teaching people to love one another through service. Serving another human with no questions asked; It’ll change everything.”
To learn more about One Generation Away and how you can help, visit onegenaway.com.