Taylor Hanson: Creating a Movement through Food
Taylor Hanson is an award-winning musician, father of seven, as well as the founder of local non-profit, Food on the Move, Inc. Taylor started this grassroots organization in 2014 to provide food to people in need. Over the years, it has gained tremendous momentum and grown into a movement. In fact, since its inception, the program has grown in partnerships and programming with a forward-thinking model. We caught up with Taylor to discuss the Food on the Move organization and how it is reimagining our food growth and distribution system through a new program called The Food Home.
TK: Tell us about why you started Food on the Move.
Taylor: I felt there was another way I needed to engage in my own life – a greater effort beyond music. Food on the Move has been an unbelievable journey for me. I felt the call to do what we’re trying to do was very much about being a person in the universe and trying to do the most I can with what I’ve been given.
TK: You mentioned that former U.S. Ambassador Edward J. Perkins was instrumental in guiding you on this journey. Tell us about that.
Taylor: I couldn’t have done this on my own. A good friend of mine introduced me to former U.S. Ambassador Perkins, and he became a mentor whom I admired and learned from. He was very familiar with Tulsa and Iron Gate Soup Kitchen because the former executive director of Iron Gate co-authored a book with him. When I asked him about his thoughts on how Tulsa could be better, specifically how our community could grow and improve, he understood the issues in Tulsa and told me to start with food.
TK: Before you started Food on the Move, you educated yourself on the food needs in our community. What did you learn?
Taylor: The Food on the Move concept started with me calling people and learning more about our community, its needs and finding the gaps. I learned about food deserts and food insecurity. It’s not just about hunger. People who are barely making ends meet live in neighborhoods that have gone into decline and have lost resources, including grocery stores. As a result, the few dollars they have can’t be reinvested in their neighborhood or in feeding their family better because everything’s gone. Many times, they go to the corner gas station and feed themselves and their kids whatever they can buy, but all the healthy stuff, like vegetables, is not available there. This is a trend across the nation.
TK: How is Food on the Move working to help those in need?
Taylor: We have developed a concept to bring grocery stores back to these food deserts and do it holistically. It was important to be mobile – so we launched using a food truck concept. We take the food to them!
TK: Share a little more about the food truck concept with the Community Food and Resource Festival.
Taylor: We learned that we have to go where the people in need are located and not expect them to go somewhere, so that’s what we do! Food and Resource Festivals are basically pop-up festivals in food deserts that bring everything to the people, and we make it fun. We have a DJ, music and a fun atmosphere. Food trucks enable us to provide a great, hot meal right on the spot. Everyone is invited and treated the same with a pay-as-you-can model. In addition to the hot meal, there is fresh produce and groceries. We’ve built a variety of foundational partnerships which provide key community resources.
TK: Why do you think this program has been so impactful?
Taylor: Bringing fresh produce to people changes everything. It changes people’s economics. Making better food available can even change their health over time. The statistics show that people in these areas (food deserts) have higher rates of diet-related diseases, like diabetes and heart disease, which are preventable.
TK: Tell us about why you’re trying to rebuild the food system:
Taylor: We have an incredible CEO and president, Kevin Harper, who has really moved us in growing our team and implementing some programs that are changing the food system. This starts with teaching people to grow food and working on a distribution system that, over time, will help provide future grocery stores able to access locally grown produce that is fresh and affordable. We are currently working with Oasis Market in north Tulsa. They are able to purchase our fresh, locally grown food and avoid transportation costs.
TK: Food on the Move is now working with students at Monroe Demonstration Academy. Tell us about that partnership and what the kids are learning.
Taylor: In 2021, we started working with Monroe Demonstration Academy in a program to spark young people’s interest in fresh produce. This model is the first in the state that we are planning to replicate. The program provides food-related education coupled with teaching students how to grow produce using new technologies such as aquaponics and hydroponics. Principal Kaiser has been instrumental in this process and really invested in this mission. He shared that kids have connected with growing things and feel a sense of ownership in this process. He’s seen students bring their families back to the school on the weekends to work in the raised garden beds. Also, school attendance for students in the program has dramatically improved! Within the first couple of months of being in the school, Principal Kaiser confirmed that our concept is working.
We now have students who started this program in middle school in 2021, and are now in high school, interning and working as a part of our team. They are beginning to teach other middle school students and it’s one of the most incredible things to watch. We currently have 161 students in the class at Monroe and this summer we will have five interns as teachers who will be employed interns.
The takeaway is that there’s a lot we’re doing, and Food on the Move is working holistically to invest in lasting change. And we’re beginning to see that it’s really possible.
TK: Tell us about new concept recently launched known as The Food Home.
Taylor: The Food Home is a major project to combat food insecurity and strengthen local food systems in Oklahoma. It will eventually be a four-phase local food campus including an Urban Farm, Food Hub, Community Hub and Market that will be located in north Tulsa. This is a major step to reinvest in once-neglected neighborhoods while making an impact on us all.
The first phase of the project, known as Urban Farm, is working to create a growing revolution by incorporating education with food technologies like hydroponics, aquaponics and aeroponics. Our hope is to build the groundwork of a future industry for individuals to be in the food business. There are opportunities for students to eventually run a successful business, like growing microgreens or tomatoes.
TK: How can people in our community get involved?
Taylor: Volunteers definitely play a key role in this organization! And there are so many opportunities to get involved. You can visit foodonthemoveok.com and register through the volunteer link. Ways people can get involved include helping to maintain our active farm or one of the multiple community garden grow beds that we that we manage around north Tulsa. Also, community team members pass out flyers and/or work at our Food and Resource Festivals. We’re inviting people to come and join us. We would love to see you!
Community Food and Resource Festivals in April 2023
- Chamberlain Park, Tuesday, April 18 from 5:30-7:30 p.m.
- TCC Northeast, Thursday, April 20 from 11:30am-1:30 p.m.
- Greenwood Cultural Center, Tuesday, April 25 from 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Visit: foodonthemoveok.com to contribute to their capital campaign supporting The Food Home, sign-up to volunteer or to learn more. Find them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn: @foodonthemoveok.
You can listen to the full interview on the Sharing Passion and Purpose Podcast by Nancy Moore on your favorite podcasting platform or directly at: SharingPassionandPurpose.com.
Food on the Move also has a podcast that you should definitely check out! It’s called Movers and Shakers Podcast.
Nancy A. Moore is a Public Relations Coordinator at Montreau and Adjunct Professor at Tulsa Community College. She has been writing for TulsaKids for almost 20 years.