Programs to fight child hunger gear up for busy summer

Sue Guinn Legg • May 15, 2014 at 8:54 AM

At a time when a record number of Northeast Tennessee residents are seeking food assistance from community pantries across the region, Good Samaritan Ministries has set out to repeat its annual Summer Food outreach to 600 families with school-aged children who will soon be without the free and reduced-price meals they receive at school.Because of increases in both the cost of food and the demand on its pantry seen since the first of the year, Good Samaritan Ministries Director Sarah Wells said the ministry considered reducing the number of families included in this year’s Summer Food program, but because of the greater need will once again provide monthly food to 600 area families in need.At a cost of $63,000 a month or $189,000 for the summer for the program, each of the families will receive a large food box with enough frozen meats, fresh dairy products and nonperishable food items to feed four people for about two weeks as well as toiletry items and cleaning products to help supplement their grocery budget each month for three months, beginning May 24.Because of the high cost of beef, Wells said this year’s food boxes will include primarily chicken and turkey products. The program will once again conclude with Good Samaritan’s annual distribution of back-to-school supplies for children June 27.The program is open to any low-income family with children who qualify for free or reduced-price meals at school. Registration is underway at the Good Samaritan Ministries building at 100 N. Roan St. Only a few slots remain available in the program and will be filled on a first-come-first-served basis. Proof of income is required. To pay for the monthly food distributions, the ministry is once again seeking $35 sponsorships to cover the cost of a food box for one family for one month or $105 to sponsor a family for the summer. An anonymous gift made to the ministry will provide a dollar-for-dollar match for all summer food sponsorships received by the ministry before the end of May up to a total of $10,000.For those who wish to help, donations to Good Samaritan Ministries earmarked for Summer Food may be made online at www.goodsamjc.org or by mail to P.O. Box 2441, Johnson City, TN 37605. All donations are tax-deductible and receipts will be provided upon request. Those who wish to learn more about the work of Good Samaritan are invited to attend a free breakfast or lunch to be catered by Chick-fil-A at the ministry Wednesday at 7:45 and 11:45 a.m. Tours of Good Samaritan’s building and information about how to be involved in its work will be available. Those who wish to attend should reserve their meal by calling 444-1056 or by emailing carla@goodsamjc.org. More information about the ministry, including opportunities to volunteer in the Summer Food program, is available at the website or by calling 928-1958.Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee will be expanding its Federal Food and Drug Administration-supported summer food program for low-income children this year and next week will announce a list of congregate feeding sites where any child in need of food in the eight-county region served by the food bank may come for a free lunch every weekday through the end of July.Second Harvest Communications Director Kathy Smith said the food bank’s Lunch Express buses, which last year delivered daily sack lunches to 1,600 low-income children in rural neighborhoods across Washington, Carter, Unicoi and Greene counties, will also be running through the four-county area again this year. A toll-free telephone hotline for any low-income family in Northeast Tennessee with a child under age 18 in need of food to call for the location of a congregate feeding site or Lunch Express bus stop near them will be available beginning next week at 866-3 HUNGRY (866-348-6479). Like the pantry at Good Samaritan, which served more than 400 families a month during the first three months of 2014, or about 100 more families than during the same three-month period last year, Smith said the number of individuals receiving food from the 200 community-based pantries and feeding program assisted by the food bank are up. The average number of individuals receiving monthly food assistance at the food bank’s 200 partner agencies is currently at 40,000, up from a monthly average of 39,000 individuals for all of 2013 and 38,000 individuals monthly during the first six months of last year.Smith said while it is unknown if the numbers indicate the need for food is increasing or if access to food for those in need has improved, the food bank relies on federal statistics that clearly show one in four chidren in Northeast Tennessee live in poverty and are at risk of hunger.More information about Second Harvest’s child-feeding programs is available online at www.netfoodbank.org or may be obtained by calling the food bank at 279-0430. Donations to help support the programs may be made at the website or by mail to Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee,1020 Jericho Drive, Kingsport, TN 37663.If there is a need or a project in your neighborhood the Good Neighbor column can assist with, contact Sue Guinn Legg at slegg@johnsoncitypress.com, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605 1717 or 929-3111, ext. 335.

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