Nashville Mayor John Cooper, left, and Rev. Enoch Fuzz, center, confer with Shelby Scott, the preacher’s Sickle-Cell Hero of the Year. Photo by Clint Confehr

By Clint Confehr

NASHVILLE, TN — Prayers of gratitude, appreciation and thanks in giving are revealed by this city’s response to a pastor’s appeal for continued support for those in need.

“So thankful to be able to help this project,” a contributor said when giving to ‘Nourish The Heart,’ a fundraising campaign honoring the Rev. Enoch Fuzz, pastor of the Corinthian Missionary Baptist Church.

Nourish The Heart is funding a ‘Food Pharmacy’ administered by the Nashville General Hospital Foundation. Fuzz has advocated distribution of food to hungry people and patients on special diets since before the March tornado and COVID-19. 

It’s more important now.

“We have a food bank and we send meals to people from General Hospital because there are people in our city who don’t have food all the time,” Fuzz said at his 65th birthday party. He’d told friends: no presents; give to this cause.

Food Pharmacy volunteers were thanked by Fuzz during the benefit. Pastor also thanked Vice Mayor Jim Schulman for another box of candy bars. Nevertheless, Fuzz was emphatic: Donate money to the hospital’s Food Pharmacy.

The well-publicized event at Elliston Place Soda Shop was where Fuzz introduced his Sickle-Cell Hero of the Year. Eight-year-old Shelby Scott is living with sickle-cell anemia. The hereditary disease took the pastor’s wife. Fuzz promised Pamela that he’d advocate for a cure, help people who have it and publicize the cause. He’s kept the promise, especially on his birthday.

A birthday party for Fuzz was hosted by Nashville developer Tony Giarratana who said what the pastor tells on himself. Fuzz has stage 4 lung cancer. Everybody there knew it, but there’s Fuzz conducting a fund-raiser for others, Giarratana said.

It wasn’t just a month with his birthday. It was Sickle Cell Awareness Month and so, on his request, young Shelby was presented with a $1,000 check from the Corinthian Missionary Baptist Church, parishioner Rita McDonald announced that Saturday.

Food Pharmacy volunteer Clyde C. Harris picks up totes from the loading dock at Nashville General Hospital. Photo courtesy of Nashville General Hospital Foundation.

Late this month, Vernon Rose, executive director of the NGH Foundation, reported nearly $108,250 had been received through Nourish the Heart. Foundation volunteers fill ‘prescriptions’ for diets with ingredients based on recipes for meals to counteract ailments. Volunteer ‘pharmacists’ put ready-to-cook food in tote bags. They include fresh fruit and produce, shelf-stable food, and kitchen supplies. It’s enough for up to 16 meals.

The Food Pharmacy started months ago. Since then, “We’ve spent approximately $170,000 for 10,270 meals,” she said. It’s nearly $1.60 per meal. The totes contain $25 worth of food. About 200 totes are delivered each week.

“A lot of them won’t have a Thanksgiving meal,” Rose said of patients with low body weight, high blood pressure, other heart conditions, obesity and chronic conditions. Their ‘prescriptions’ usually include carrots, dark red onions, red bell peppers, fresh lean beef, pork, chicken, turkey, beans and sauce for low sodium meals. For more, ask Mike Venters, M.S., R.D. at (615) 879-7427 or michael.venters@nashvilleha.org.

Venters, a registered dietician, says the Food Pharmacy is “a step above a food pantry which is about hunger. This is about making food choices for disease management.” Patients have already seen a medical professional who, in effect, writes a food prescription to be filled at the Food Pharmacy. Totes are left on patients’ doorsteps. Patients are recommended by pastors like Fuzz, through foundation websites, emails and medical professionals.

“Hundreds and hundreds of patients come once a week,” said Venters. Much of the food comes from Second Harvest, another public service that needs support. The foundation’s office is on Nashville General’s first floor near its outpatient service area.

Fuzz has been a foundation board member for years. Offered help after his diagnosis, he declined, insisting donations help others, Rose said. Board member Lyn Plantinga, general manager of WTVF, has known Fuzz for years. She advocated blending a new appeal, Nourish The Heart, with Food Pharmacy resources, Rose said. So, the station, Scripps Howard Foundation, Giarratana, John Elridge of E3 Construction Services, and Harpeth Hills Church of Christ pitched in to match donations up to $44,000.

Ironically, the pandemic helped, Rose said. Metro’s community officers’ work was curtailed during the quarantine, so they were enlisted to deliver food. It’s particularly important for people being treated for cancer. Its side effects include loss of appetite, trouble swallowing and a sore mouth. Venters recommends something easy to chew. As it turns out, Schulman’s box of candy bars is just what the doctor ordered.

It’s more important than a food prescription might imply. If a cancer patient’s weight falls too much, treatment must be suspended.

Food Pharmacy delivery volunteers pickup totes on Wednesdays at General Hospital.

Clint Confehr

Clint Confehr — an American journalist since 1972 — first wrote for The Tennessee Tribune in 1999. His news writing and photography in South Central Tennessee and the Nashville Metropolitan Statistical...