As Covid cases and mask mandates wane in the United States many families look forward to returning to some semblance of normalcy. Others will continue to feel the effects of the two-year shut down for longer in the form of financial difficulty and even hunger.
It was this realization that turned Emily and Aaron Cox of Murfreesboro onto the meal-packing franchise Meals of Hope, a nonprofit created in Florida that works to gather teams of people together for the purpose of packaging inexpensive, preformulated nutritious meals for distribution to those in need. The five staples meals, which include the ingredients for beans and rice casserole, mac n cheese, cinnamon apple oatmeal, pasta and tomato sauce and chicken-flavored vegetable soup, cost roughly 30 cents each and are fortified to provide balanced nutrition.
The Coxes' franchise kicked off its innaugural packing event on March 5 to the tune of 200 volunteers packing more than 51,000 meals in just two hours.
"We learned about Meals of Hope because we have always been interested in owning our own business but we have never found a really great fit for us," says Emily. "We started researching franchises and pretty much hit a dead end because none of them were things we were passionate about or that we wanted to do. We worked with a franchise consultant (they match up franchises with potential franchisees) and after we had gone through the list that he sent us and decided none of them were what we wanted, he sent us one last one that had just become available and it was Meals of Hope!
We want to own our own business, teach our kids about business, teach our kids about giving back, do something meaningful, share the workload and share the child-raising load, work from home, wanted our kids to be able to participate with us in our job. it was kind of a 'dream list' and we honestly didn’t think that all of that would be possible until we found Meals of Hope."
Meals of Hope is the first organization of its kind that is attempting to franchise out the part of their outreach that brings revenue in.
"What we liked about it is that the people who are donating money to Meals of Hope are still getting a lot out of it," says Emily. "They are getting a lot more than just the tax benefits of a donation. The are also helping to feed hungry people in their local area, having an event that promotes community and team building and networking, they are giving themselves a great way to get some PR, they are able to fulfill company volunteer or service requirements. We just love that this job is a way for us to help people help people in OUR community."
There aren’t very many franchise territories for Meals of Hope so the Coxes have have the lion’s share of Tennessee as far as population goes. Their franchise will cover all of Middle Tennessee and then the rest of the state heading West to Memphis.
The March 5 packing event was the franchise's “Grand Opening“ to the area and hosted volunteers coming from local businesses, civic organizations, other non-profit organizations, church small groups and also local schools representing Rutherford, Davidson and Williamson counties.
Meals of Hope is able to help facilitate meal-packing events of any size, from small team-building events to large company-wide events. The Coxes' goal for this year is to work with businesses, churches, civic organizations, schools and individuals to pack 1,000,000 meals to stay in Middle and West Tennessee.
"One thing we like to let people know is that hunger is in our backyards," says Emily. "It has gotten worse since the Covid-19 pandemic and we believe it is the responsibility of every human to help our neighbors who are hungry. Any impact is helpful and anybody can organize an event. We are here to help if they are uncertain about any part of the process. We can help them with fund-raising, ideas for gathering enough volunteers or finding an event location."
To learn more visit mealsofhope.org. Curious about creating a packing event for Meals of Hope? Contact Emily and Aaron Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org.