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MayDay NWA Feeds the Hungry in Fayetteville

Individuals line up to receive a free meal at Walker Park. The meal is provided by MayDay NWA co-organizers and volunteers working to together to feed the hungry. Photo by Victoria Hernandez.
Victoria Hernandez
Individuals line up to receive a free meal at Walker Park. The meal is provided by MayDay NWA co-organizers and volunteers working to together to feed the hungry.

Every Monday night at Walker Park from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., volunteers and organizers are out serving the community. Through MayDay NWA, Fayetteville’s struggling working class can obtain a free meal and community connections.

Since May of 2020, Alex Tripodi says he has been cooking for the community “because everyone deserves food.”

Tripodi started the organization as a result of “personal and political turmoil and trauma.”

“When the pandemic hit I was furloughed. I was in the fine dining industry and I didn’t know what to do with myself so I started cooking,” Tripodi said. “I realized that with a little bit of seed money I could leverage some connections I had in the restaurant industry to get free or close to free food.”

From that idea, Tripodi utilized those connections to start cooking meals for the community. He gained access to a kitchen and cooked meals to deliver to doorsteps throughout Fayetteville.

“When we were cooking out of Trinity United Methodist we were ambitious,” he said. “There was very little community interaction... and we realized that we were doing a great job of feeding a lot of people, we were doing a very poor job of building those connections and addressing those vectors of power and privilege.”

Originally called the MayDay Community Kitchen, the organization rebranded from simply dropping off food on doorsteps at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to providing more than just a free meal.

After the overturning of Roe v. Wade, MayDay NWA reformed to “something a little more low to the ground, a little more flexible” where the organization could address other needs of the community beyond hunger.

MayDay NWA collaborates with other programs, such as those that provide clothing donations or medical care information.

Rachel Anderson started working with MayDay in September 2020 as a volunteer and spoke of the need to add more community aspects to their work.

“A lot of food programs are designed to give out meals and kind of keep this barrier between the people who are serving meals and the people that are receiving meals,” Anderson said. “In contrast to that, what we try to do is create a sense of community. So you’ll see, we’ll sit down and eat with people out here. This is our dinner too. We’re coming out sharing a meal, trying to build community, trying to build a point of stability for people and be consistent to try and help lift people up.”

Anderson says she got involved with MayDay NWA from personal experiences with hunger growing up.

“This was absolutely the type of resource that I would have needed when I was growing up,” she said. “My family didn’t have a lot of money during certain periods of time and there were definitely times where the only meals I was eating were the free breakfast and lunch I got at school. Hunger is a cause… I have experienced that and I know how stressful and how isolating and just how painful that really is. So trying to address that need within the community that I live in feels really important to me and kind of healing work for myself.”

A typical day with this new model starts early on Monday afternoons. Co-organizers will go to the St. James Food Pantry to obtain the resources needed to cook the day’s meal. Then, volunteers and other organizers meet at Atlas The Restaurant to get the ingredients prepped and the cooking process going, Anderson said.

Machios Talau, is a sous-chef with Atlas The Restaurant in Fayetteville and co-worker of Anderson’s. Starting as a volunteer like Anderson, he utilized his connections in the industry to gain access to Atlas’s kitchen since the restaurant is closed on Mondays.

Talau now works in multiple capacities to get food on the table for the folks in need.

“I basically brainstorm all the food. All the menu ideas, they rely on me to push. All the food and picking up the food and distributing the food is a responsibility of mine,” he says. “Basically we’re a team and any responsibilities are on all of us.”

The three view their work with MayDay as more than just volunteering, but connecting to it on a deeper level.

“It’s like a personal responsibility and it's a personal philosophy of ‘are you an able body, do you have this connection, do you have this amount of privilege,’ and if you do, how can you share it,” Talau said.

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Victoria Hernandez is a news intern for KUAF and currently a senior dual majoring in English/Journalism with History and Gender Studies minors at the University of Arkansas.
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