Cracker Barrel is giving back to healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic through the initiative, There’s Comfort in Giving.
In partnership with Sony Music Nashville and other Nashville artists, Cracker Barrel has delivered 15,000 meals to healthcare workers in the HCA Healthcare system and other hospitals across the south. Chris Young, Mitchell Tenpenny and The Sisterhood Band, along with Scotty McCreery, Maddie & Tae and Eli Young Band, are among the many participating artists who selected hospitals to donate meals to. “This was an easy yes for me,” Young tells Sounds Like Nashville over the phone about his participation in the program. “This made all the sense in the world.” Young chose Vanderbilt Medical Center to receive meal donations from Cracker Barrel, a place that holds a personal connection for him. His father received treatment at the Center when he was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2009 and has since recovered. The meal donation is not only a way to give back to the institution that helped save his life, but honor those who are working tirelessly to keep the community safe. “They’re giving everything they’ve got and doing some insane workloads as far as their hours right now. To be able to give them a great meal is an easy way to say thank you,” Young remarks.
Tenpenny also shares a personal bond with the hospital he contributed meals to at St. Thomas Medical Center, a place that became a second home to him and his family during his father James’ battle with a rare form of tissue cancer before he passed away in 2014. Additionally, Tenpenny has friends working in the medical field and admires the way they’ve fearlessly risen to occassion during the pandemic. “There wasn’t even a moment of thought. When they had to go to work when this happened, they were on it. That’s the true heart of Nashville itself, but this whole country, the way everyone’s accepted ‘this is a job, this is what we signed up for.’ There’s so much bravery in that that inspires me,” he reveres, adding that he anticipates the meals will allow healthcare workers to feel less isolated. “I think it’s hope, a smile,” he continues. “It is something that says ‘someone’s caring about us.’ We’re out here trying to live our lives as best we can, and to say ‘someone’s thinking about us,’ I think it goes further than we imagined.”
Tenpenny’s label mate Alyssa Bonagura of The Sisterhood Band also has friends who are on the font lines. Bonaguara revealed that hearing the stories from her friend who is a paramedic in New Jersey compelled her to be a part of a program that gives back to the healthcare professionals she calls “heroes.” “When you hear it from someone firsthand who is a healthcare worker and who’s fighting this every day, it really rings true and hits home,” she explains. Bonagura and her Sisterhood Band partner, Ruby Stewart, chose to donate meals to the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital and the emergency department at Vanderbilt to offer the staff nourishment and a sense of normalcy. “For that one minute, they can feel normal and feel full and regenerated by the food. I’m so grateful that we’re able to do that because we don’t realize how simple it is to have a nice meal until we are not able to,” Bonagura says. “I think it’s symbolic of how we’re all trying to stand together and do what we can to try to take the burden off of our healthcare workers and let them know that we’re thinking about them and provide some encouragement,” adds Matt Stell, who also donated to Vanderbilt.
Embracing the life motto “the more you get, the more you give,” Rachel Wammack says that being a part of There’s Comfort in Giving is a small token of her gratitude to for the selfless efforts of healthcare workers. Describing Cracker Barrel as the “ultimate comfort food,” Wammack also donated meals to the staff members at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital, admiring how the staff goes “above and beyond” for the patients. “I hope that the healthcare workers will feel appreciated. I hope they’ll feel uplifted and really loved because they are the ones on the front lines. They’re the ones who are living this life and they’re risking their lives by being so close to the pandemic,” she praises. “We’re called to be six feet apart, they are called to be right up in it.”
In spite of these trying times, Bonagura sees a sign of peace as people around the world are finding ways to unite while being physically apart, citing There’s Comfort in Giving as a symbol of hope. “There’s a beautiful way that the world is coming together and showing love to each other more than we ever have in a really long time,” she observes. “Having Cracker Barrel sponsor something like this is another hopeful thing for everybody to realize that everybody’s in this together.”