Holiday food drives enter stretch run

Sue Guinn Legg • Nov 2, 2012 at 9:03 AM

With one week remaining in this year’s region-wide high school food drive for Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee, the food bank is asking everyone to support students in their communities as they gather nonperishable food and monetary donations for people who depend on food from the 200 local pantries and feeding programs the food bank assists.

Now in its fifth year, the student-led food drive has grown to become one of the largest, most important of the year for the food bank for many reasons. Because of its size and scope, the drive activates communities across all eight counties of Northeast Tennessee to join in the battle against hunger. Last year, participating schools collected more than 38,000 pounds of food, and their goal this year is 50,000 pounds.

Because of its timing, food collected by the participating high schools increases the food bank’s capacity to help with both large, once-a-year food distributions that take place during the holidays and the ongoing need for food the community-based pantries work to meet day after day. And most importantly for the high school students who participate, the drive builds a foundation for lifetime involvement in hunger-relief efforts in the communities where they will work and live.

Executive director of Second Harvest of Northeast Tennessee Rhonda Chafin said, “We really commend the students for their attention to the issue of hunger in Northeast Tennessee. And, since we have seen a 52 percent increase in the number of households requesting food assistance since 2007, this food drive is quite important in helping to meet the tremendous need.

“But the more important benefit is the students’ participation in an effort to battle hunger in their communities. Students participating in this activity learn to become better servant leaders as well as develop necessary leadership skills.”

Students at each of the 12 schools participating in this year’s drive are conducting a variety of activities to raise food and monetary donations for the food bank, and this weekend’s high school football games are good spots to look for opportunities to chip in. Food donations can also be dropped off at the participating schools, including Daniel Boone and David Crockett high schools, University School and Providence Academy, Dobyns Bennett High School in Kingsport and Tri-City Christian Schools throughout the area.

The schools have already dropped off 8,557 pounds of food at the Second Harvest warehouse in Gray and will make their final deliveries prior to next Thursday’s weigh-in and drive celebration where cash prizes will be awarded to the schools that collect the most donations. For more information about the drive and how to contribute, call the food bank at 477-4053.

Also, it’s three weeks until Thanksgiving and WCQR radio’s annual Project Thanksgiving for Second Harvest is under way. For a fourth straight year, the radio station is teaming up with the food bank to provide as many Thanksgiving food boxes as possible to families in need throughout Northeast Tennessee. Last year, the drive provided holiday food boxes and turkeys for 5,000 low-income households, and the project’s goal this year is to double that number.

Second Harvest reports there are approximately 94,000 people in the eight counties of Northeast Tennessee who live at or below the federal poverty level and approximately one out of every five people in the region are “food insecure,” or at times uncertain where their next meal will come from. To ease their uncertainty for the Thanksgiving meal, WCQR is asking its listeners and local businesses for $25 donations to sponsor a food box for one family. Each box will come with the makings for an entire holiday meal, including a turkey.It also includes a Bible. The deadline for donations is Nov. 8, when the Project Thanksgiving will wrap up with a day-long radiothon and online drive for donations at 88.3 FM on the radio dial and wcqr.org/2012/10/project-thanksgiving.

The Jonesborough Senior Center is conducting a food drive to help Good Samaritan ministries with its effort to provide a holiday meal to 1,000 homes in need at Thanksgiving and to assist those who come to the ministry daily in need of food.

“We have been advised that the food shelves are bare at Good Samaritan Ministries. They are in need of food due to the upcoming holidays and the increase in community needs,” said Marcia Rountree, program director of the Jonesborough Senior Center.

To help meet the need, the Senior Center, at 1521 Persimmon Ridge Road, will serve as a drop-off point for nonperishable food donations and for three specific food items particularly needed by the ministry: macaroni and cheese, spaghetti sauce and canned fruit. The senior center will wrap up its drive Nov. 9 and Rountree expressed her appreciation in advance to all those who will help. For more information about the food drive, call the senior center at 753-1083.

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