Food Bank wins award, funds

Sue Guinn Legg • Apr 24, 2012 at 10:19 PM

Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee is on a winning roll and working to maintain its momentum.

On Tuesday, the food bank announced it has received $13,388 in donations collected by area Food City stores during the AARP Drive to End Hunger Campaign conducted during March’s NASCAR race week at Bristol, and the national Feeding America food bank network’s 2012 Advocacy Program of the Year award for its work to curb hunger among older adults.

Because many of the estimated one in five people in the Tri-Cities region who do not have enough food to eat are older adults, AARP encouraged race fans to purchase $1, $3 or $5 food vouchers for the food banks at Food City stores across the Tri-Cities region to help both the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee and the Feeding America Food Bank of Southwest Virginia.

In 2011, the AARP Drive to End Hunger campaign was conducted in conjunction with NASCAR champion driver Jeff Gordon and raised $20,000 for the two regional food banks.

Feeding America’s 2012 Advocacy Program of the Year award recognized the Northeast Tennessee food bank for its work with AARP to raise community awareness and food and monetary donations to help ease hunger among the region’s seniors. The food bank’s senior hunger advocacy program included an assessment of hunger among older adults in the region that was used to direct its mobile pantry to areas where seniors and others have limited access to community pantries or public feeding programs.

Conducted in September in conjunction with the national Hunger Action Month, the program also included a local senior hunger forum conducted in partnership with AARP to raise awareness among older adults of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program formerly known as food stamps.

Vicki Escarra, president and CEO of the Feeding America network said, “Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee continues to show why it’s a leader in our network. This food sourcing award shows the innovation and creativity of the food bank’s staff to help fight hunger in their community.”

Rhonda Chafin, Second Harvest’s executive director, said the Advocacy Program of the Year award came with a $2,500 cash prize from the Feeding America network to help further the fight against hunger in the local region.

“To be chosen to receive this award out of all the food banks in the Feeding America system is a great reward for the work we do everyday to bring awareness to hunger issues in Northeast Tennessee,” Chafin said.

Even as Second Harvest, AARP and Food City representatives celebrated their work to ease hunger, the food bank was competing for an even larger prize.

As of 11 a.m., Chafin said the Johnson City area’s lead in Walmart’s $1 million Fighting Hunger Together facebook competition among 200 food banks nationwide had extended to just more than 4,000 online votes ahead of number two Fresno, Calif.

With six days remaining until the competition wraps up, Chafin reiterated her ongoing plea for food bank supporters to continue entering their votes daily at Walmart’s Fighting Hunger Together page at www.facebook.com/walmart. In light of the come-from-behind win that sent Walmart’s last Fighting Hunger Together $1 million prize to Salt Lake City with 3.5 million votes cast on the final day of that competition, she cautioned against overconfidence.

“We’ve got such big cities in the running, things can change and we can and we can fall behind,” she said. “We need every vote every day, from every student in every school, every church, everybody. Every votes counts,” she said. “We are also asking the community to give us strategies, any strategy to get us more votes.”

For more information about the Fighting Hunger Together competition or to help, call 477-4053.

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