Country music star Brad Paisley climbed behind the controls of a backhoe Wednesday to break ground on a Nashville grocery store that will be free for people in need.
The Store will operate like any other market: Customers will walk through the aisles to pick out their own fruits, vegetables, cereal and the rest of their groceries and check out at the register.
The main difference is that no money changes hands.
Paisley joked that even the mechanical horse outside will be free.
He told the crowd at the groundbreaking ceremony that the goal was to take away “the sting of embarrassment” that families may feel because they need help.
“The kids should not know what their parent is going through. That’s not stress the child needs,” he said.
Paisley and his wife, actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley, decided to open The Store after volunteering with their kids at The Unity Shoppe, a similar operation in Santa Barbara, California.
The couple partnered with Belmont University, where Paisley went to college, and The Store is being built next to the school’s ministry center.
“We love this idea of a free grocery store where people can come in and make choices for their families and kids can see their parents in a position of power making choices for the family,” Williams-Paisley said.
She said that there was a huge need for such programs in Nashville because 1 in 7 people and 1 in 5 children there deal with food insecurity, meaning “they don’t know where their next meal is coming from.”
Social service agencies will refer customers to The Store and they will be able to shop there for a year while they get back on their feet.
“We really want to get to people before it’s a major crisis,” she said. “We want to help people in this gap where they’re trying to get back on their feet and they just need a little bit of extra help.”
Their goal is to serve at least 3,000 people each year.