Local organizations in running to win $1M through online campaign

Sue Guinn Legg • Apr 9, 2012 at 11:15 PM

Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee and Good Samaritan Ministries are in the running to win $1 million through a Walmart and Facebook hunger-fighting campaign that kicked off on Monday and will run through April 30.

To help, the food bank and the ministry are asking their supporters to visit Walmart’s Facebook page daily throughout the campaign, click on the “Fighting Hunger Together” icon, enter a vote for the Johnson City area and encourage all their Facebook friends to do the same.

As of 7 p.m. on Monday, the food bank and Good Samaritan were running second in the national competition and if they can remain in the top 20 through the end of the campaign, even if they do not win the $1 million, they will be one of 20 food bank and partner agency duos to receive a $50,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation.

Rhonda Chafin, executive director of the Second Harvest food bank that serves eight counties in Northeast Tennessee region, said Walmart selected the food bank to take part in the competition based on data that show the Metropolitan Statistical Area of Washington, Carter and Unicoi counties has one of the top unemployment rates in the country. “If you’re not a Facebook member, we hope that you become one just for this (campaign),” Chafin said.

So far this year, Second Harvest’s regional food bank in Gray is running about 1 million pounds of food behind its total food distribution last year. While local food donations to Second Harvest are holding steady, Chafin said a 30 percent cut in U.S. Department of Agriculture food commodities this year has reduced its resources at a time when the number of people receiving help from the 200 local pantries and emergency feeding programs served by Second Harvest is increasing dramatically, up to 38,000 people every month this year compared to 36,000 people monthly in 2011 and 34,000 people monthly in 2010.

“Our purpose right now is to purchase food to have enough to serve these people at 200 local pantries and kitchens that depend on us. This (Walmart Facebook campaign) is another way to bring food into the food bank. It’s another way to provide the resources that are needed in this community,” Chafin said.

“It’s exciting that we’re in the top 20 and we want to stay in the top 20 to win $50,000 that will go to the top 20. We want you to come back (to www.facebook.com/walmart) daily and vote and get your friends to vote because it’s going to take that.”

Good Samaritan Executive Director Sara Wells said the ministry’s selection as the local food bank’s Walmart Fighting Hunger Together partner and its chance to share in the $1 million campaign prize came as a welcome surprise on Monday. While Walmart has not announced how the prize will be divided between the food banks and their partner agencies, Wells said, “As long as there is food in it, we’re happy because food is what we need.”

The ministry provides food and other emergency assistance to people in five Northeast Tennessee counties and operates one of the largest pantries in the Johnson City area.

“Please vote every day,” Chafin said.

More information about the food bank is available at www.netfoodbank.org or may be obtained by calling 477-4053. More information about Good Samaritan Ministries is available at www.goodsamjc.org or may be obtained by calling 928-1958.

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