Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee is in the running for one of 40 $45,000 hunger fighting grants up for grabs in the Walmart Foundation’s second annual Fighting Hunger Together campaign on Facebook.
A revised version of the online Fighting Hunger Together competition that last year netted a $40,000 grant for the regional food bank and a $10,000 grant for the pantry at Good Samaritan Ministries, kicked off at 12:01 a.m. April 1 and will run through 11:59 p.m. April 30 at www.facebook.com/walmart.
And just as it did in last year’s competition, Second Harvest of Northeast Tennessee appears to have taken an early lead with nearly 2,200 votes registered late Wednesday afternoon, or more than 600 votes more than the second place Second Harvest Food Bank of San Joaquin, Calif.
“I think we’re in first,” Rhonda Chafin, executive director of the local food bank said. “We don’t know but we seem to be doing good. We just have to keep up the momentum. There are a lot of cities that are larger than us and if they engage their communities, and we think they are just starting to do that, they’ll blow by us.”
Such was the case in last April’s Fighting Hunger Together Facebook race for a first place prize of $1 million that was ultimately awarded to hunger fighting agencies in Youngstown, Ohio, which took the lead from the Johnson City area in the final 72 hours of the competition. This year the foundation will award $45,000 to each 40 food banks and $20,000 to each of 60 hunger fighting agencies that gather the most Fighting Hunger Together votes.
The Second Harvest food banks in east and middle Tennessee are also taking part in this year’s competition. Chafin said the logos for all three Tennessee food banks area similar and ask those who wish to support the local food bank to be careful that their votes are cast for Northeast Tennessee. “The two main things we want to be sure people know is that they can vote daily, and that they have to actually vote at Walmart’s Facebook page and not just ‘like’ ” a Fighting Hunger Together post.
Chafin said this year’s grant awards are designated for child hunger and if awarded to the local food bank will assist the food bank’s Food for Kids Back Pack program that provides take-home food packages of nutritious snacks and easy to prepare meals to 4,362 school children in the eight counties of Northeast Tennessee and the food bank’s summer Lunch Express bus deliveries and on-site feeding program for low income children across the region.
In announcing the competition, Julie Gehrki, senior director of the Walmart Foundation, cited a recent USDA study that shows more than 16 million children in the United States struggle with hunger. “As the nation’s largest grocer, we have a responsibility to help change this reality,” Gehrki said. “With this initiative, we are working to help families across the U.S. by generating meals and awarding grants to local food banks and agencies to support hunger relief programs, including backpack programs providing vitals meals to children when they are out of school, and community gardens teaching families how to grow their own healthy foods.”
Chafin said local poverty statistics indicate as many as two out of five children in Northeast Tennessee may not have enough to eat. “If you have always wanted to help feed the hungry this is a great opportunity,” she said.
“People can vote in the campaign every day during April and really make a difference in the lives of hungry children in Northeast Tennessee. We are competing against large communities so every vote counts.”
For more information about the competition and how to vote visit walmart.com/hunger or call the food bank at 477-4053.