A man in Johnson City and a woman in Roan Mountain have been selected to receive $50,000 Golden Spark grants from the Walmart Foundation’s Fighting Hunger Together campaign to combat child hunger in their communities.
Both winners have told the foundation they would like to use their winnings to expand a food backpack program for schoolchildren in their areas and the foundation has asked Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee to submit applications to expand its Food for Kids backpack program in those areas.
While the winners’ full names and the nonprofit hunger-fighting agencies that will be designated to put her winnings to work will not be disclosed until later this month, the foundation announced Tuesday that “Mike C. of Johnson City” and “Julie K. of Roan Mountain” will be among a total of 40 individual $50,000 Golden Spark grant winners to be selected.
Kathy Smith, communications director for the regional food bank, said the Walmart Foundation notified Second Harvest on Tuesday that two Golden Spark grant winners from the Northeast Tennessee region have been selected in the first three rounds of the competition and requested the food bank submit applications to expand its Food for Kids program in both communities over a three-year period.
“We’re in the process of applying to receive both awards. Whether we will or will not receive them, we do not know. But we are hopeful,” Smith said. “So far, all we know is two people in our area have won and it’s a chance for the food bank to expand its Food for Kids program.”
The backpack program provides take home packages of child-friendly entrees and snacks to 4,100 children in 135 schools in Northeast Tennessee every other Friday afternoon throughout the school year. Children included in the program are those who have been identified by their schools as not having enough food to eat at home.
The program is made possible in part by individual child sponsorships of $93 per child for an entire school year and by area churches, clubs and other organizations that sponsor individual schools or school districts for an entire school year.
Smith said not all children included in the program are sponsored and the food bank’s total annual budget for the program is $300,000. “We are hoping this will allow us to cover all the children we are doing as well as expansion,” she said.
While the food backpack program is already available in Roan Mountain and Johnson City schools and the food bank is covering all the children in those communities for whom backpacks have been requested, Smith said it is unknown at this time if all children in need of the supplemental food packages in those areas are included.
Census data shows two in every five children in the Northeast Tennessee region live in households that area below the federal poverty level, which Smith said indicates many more than 4,100 children in the region are in need of supplemental food.
The online competition for the Golden Spark grants will continue through Sunday at www.walmart.com/hunger, and the food bank is continuing to encourage area residents to register daily. Contest participants may choose any community in their area to receive the funding.
The Walmart Foundation will announce a final round of individual grant winners on Tuesday and the nonprofit agencies selected to use the grants on Oct. 29.