Second Harvest Food Bank’s Facebook friends have done it again, winning the regional food bank a $45,000 grant for its Food for Kids food backpack program in the Walmart Foundation’s most recent Fighting Hunger Together Facebook campaign.
The prize comes on the heels of a $40,000 grant from the foundation awarded to the food bank in a similar Facebook race for a $1 million prize conducted last spring, and three grants totaling $150,000 for the food bank’s Food for Kids backpack program that were won by three local supporters in a separate online competition conducted by the foundation last fall.
The recent monthlong Fighting Hunger Together campaign wrapped up just before midnight Tuesday and on Wednesday the food bank’s Executive Director Rhonda Chafin said, “It’s only through strong community support that we were successful. They did it. They really got behind the campaign and they really made a difference.”
Chafin said the prize money will provide about 460 local children who do not have enough to eat at home with take-home backpacks of food. “That’s a good size bag of food with entrees, snacks, juice, milk, fruit, granola bars and all sorts of nutritious foods they can take home every other weekend for an entire school year. That’s 460 children we will be able to help,” she said.
Last fall’s $150,000 funding was designated to expand the Food for Kids backpack program over a three-year period in Carter County and Johnson City, where the individual grant winners reside. And last spring’s $40,000 grant was designated to increase the food bank’s facility and transportation capacity.
Last year’s Food for Kids backpack grants allowed Second Harvest to expand the program to include about 4,300 in 130 schools in Northeast Tennessee. Chafin said the new grant will be used to provide backpacks for children currently included in the program who return to school next year without Food for Kids sponsorships.
On the power of social media, Chafin said Second Harvest received about 400 new “likes” on its Facebook page during the recent competition, compared to last spring’s two-week, $1 million competition during which its Facebook page received about 4,000 new “likes.”
“We would like to thank the Walmart Foundation for having these campaigns to help fight hunger. It really helps us close the gap on food insecurity and help so many children who need food. And we would like to give a big thank you to the community.
“Other food banks are calling and asking us what we did and we’re telling them we had a good base of a lot of Facebook friends who stuck with us. We could not have done it without the community.”
Meanwhile, the annual Second Harvest Food Bank Golf Classic, held Monday at the Blackthorn Club at The Ridges in Gray, generated about $25,000 for the food bank.
The drive for $1.3 million needed to renovate and move the food bank to its new and larger facility in Kingsport is about halfway to its goal. “We have about half the renovation and half of our fundraising campaign completed and we still need to raise that final $600,000,” Chafin said.
For more information about the regional food bank, visit netfoodbank.org or call 477-4053.