Kathy Smith, community relations director for the local food bank, said the average number of people in Northeast Tennessee receiving monthly assistance from soup kitchens and community pantries assisted by Second Harvest in the eight-county area has risen to 39,000 and is increasing.
“Part of that is because we’re doing a better job reaching people and part of it is because there is more need,” Smith said. “What we’re doing is just encouraging everyone to think of things they can do to make a difference and take action during Hunger Action Month.”
Activities planned throughout the month include a weeklong Food Stamp Challenge being conducted nationwide by Feeding America beginning today.
Smith said the challenge is for households that do not receive food stamps to try to live on $4.50 worth of food per person per day every day this week, or the average amount people who receive food stamps have for food.
“We’re going to do it in my little family. They don’t know it yet but we’re talking soup beans and cornbread,” Smith said. “The art of cooking is really going to come into play. You can use coupons and other resources, but we were talking and someone said that will cut out all fresh vegetables and leave you with dried and canned. Four dollars and 50 cents is one fast-food trip.”
During the challenge, the local food bank will also be posting different questions daily at its website,www.netfoodbank.org, and at its Second Harvest of Northeast Tennessee Facebook page to allow people who do and do not receive food to comment on how they are making it on $4.50.
At the same time, Smith said, the food bank and Feeding America is asking everyone to join them in asking Congress not to reduce food stamps and funding for other food assistance programs as proposed by the federal Farm Bill. Those who wish to learn more about the pending Farm Bill cuts or to join the Feeding America network in its message to Congress opposing the cuts may do so online at www.feedingamerica.org.
The annual student food drive in which area high schools compete to raise the most donations for the food bank kicked off at Second Harvest’s new facility in Kingsport on Friday. Cash prizes will be awarded to the winning school, and those who wish to help can support their local high school by donating to the drive as it continues through Oct. 29.
And on Sept. 26, the food bank and many of the 200 area feeding agencies and pantries it assists will wrap up Hunger Action Month and kick off their holiday food drive season with the annual Hunger Convoy through the region, beginning at 9 a.m. at Bristol Motor Speedway.
“Hunger Action Month gives everyone an opportunity to join a movement that has a real and lasting impact on the effort to feed more Americans in need,” Smith said. “Whether it’s by raising awareness, making donations or volunteering, there is something everyone can do to get involved.”
For more information about national efforts to raise awareness and curb hunger, visit www.hungeractionmonth.org.