Murfreesboro food truck owner gives meals to needy: 'This is what the Lord wanted us to do'

Nancy DeGennaro   | Murfreesboro Daily News Journal

A Murfreesboro couple has turned their for-profit food truck business into a nonprofit free meal service. NaNa's Kitchen opens at 11 a.m. each Monday in the left corner of the old Fred's shopping center parking lot at 1660 Middle Tennessee Blvd. "until it's all gone," said Keva Leonard, who operates the free meal truck with husband, Derrick Leonard. "Rain, sleet or snow, we'll be here," Keva Leonard said. "Anybody in need can come by.

I don't ask any questions. You don't owe me any explanations." The husband-wife duo had been operating Flames Hot Chicken and Fish for the past two years.

But Keva Leonard felt a calling to help others tugging at her heart after her mother's death during the Thanksgiving holiday in 2018. "I was thinking, 'I'm supposed to be doing something,'" Keva Leonard said.  As she reflected on her mother's giving legacy, Keva Leonard remembered guests were often welcomed to the family dinner table.

Her mother, Deanna Ussery, was a giving and kind person who never wanted to see anyone go hungry. 

'This is what the Lord wanted us to do'

"I've seen all these food trucks popping up everywhere, But I was like, 'What about the people who can't afford to get something off these food trucks?' They're riding by Burger King, smelling all this food. What about those people?" Keva Leonard said.  Anytime they were selling food, the Leonards were also giving it away behind the scenes.

Derrick Leonard knew his wife was passionate about helping others, so he bought a food truck for her to feed those in need. "We prayed about this is this is what the Lord wanted us to do," Keva Leonard said. So they painted the truck pink and gray -- favorite colors of her mother.

"We had a dedication and memorial for her," Keva Leonard said. A small group of family and friends gathered and prayed over the food truck. "Then we started preparing meals based on what we could afford to do." Meals are hot and include a vegetable, meat and bottle of water.

They also give out bread and pieces of fruit like apples and oranges, "just whatever we can provide extra for them," she said. The Leonards have also been strategic in where they serve. "We chose this location because we saw a need in this community (after selling food there for so long).

So we went from selling meals to actually providing meals to anyone in need," Keva Leonard said. Former restaurateur and local businessman Ricky Turner saw what they were doing and enlisted some of his church members to donate to the cause. "Anything that's Murfreesboro, I'm on board.

I started telling other people and people started coming and donating ... just word of mouth," Turner said. Anyone wishing to donate to NaNa's Kitchen can bring items to the truck on Mondays between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Items needed include commercial-sized cans of vegetables and fruits, cases of water, bags of fruit and bread.

For more information about how you can help NaNa's Kitchen, call Keva Leonard at 615-653-1548. 

Reach reporter Nancy DeGennaro at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @NanDeGennaro.

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