Food for Thought, the award-winning nonprofit program that helps Liberty Bell Middle School and Science Hill High School students who, for whatever reason, have nothing to eat at lunch time, will begin its ninth year of service today in the schools’ cafeterias.
Founded in 2004 by former Science Hill student Audrey Cloyd, Food for Thought is open to any student regardless of their circumstances.
Be it “the richest of the rich” who forgot and left their sack lunch at home or a working high school student without family who wonders where every next meal will come from, Food for Thought provides a “student- friendly and very confidential” way for everyone to sit down and eat, said Suzy Cloyd, Audrey’s mother and the program’s volunteer director.
Approved by the Board of Education and supported by community donations, Food for Thought may be used by any student twice during each of the school year’s four nine-week sessions. Because the program requires no staff and no operational cost, 100 percent of all donations are used to provide meals. And because the program is operated through the Johnson City Public Schools Foundation, donations are also tax deductible.
Every dollar donated is “a dollar less needed to balance the (schools’) food budget” and a dollar that a teacher will not take from their personal funds to buy a student meal, Cloyd said.
Bonnie White, director of the Johnson City Schools Homeless Program that serves about 300 homeless students over the course of every school year, said Food for Thought often fills a void for students who are new to the schools and not yet entered in the cafeterias’ computer systems.
“Hunger is something many people do not understand and don’t believe exists in our community. This program is addressing a great need and making a difference for many students,” White said.
Last school year, Food For Thought surpassed 15,000 meals provided since its start in 2004. Entering its ninth academic year, Cloyd said, “Food for Thought continues to follow its original goal and purpose, to help students in a time of need with their lunch meal, for any reason.
Also last school year, a couple of area restaurant franchises, Chick-fil-A and McDonald’s, added their support for the Food for Thought program by donating meal passes to help students who go without meals after school and on weekends.
With recognition that “lunch does not stop on weekends, holidays and break periods,” Cloyd said, Food for Thought expanded “beyond the lunchroom and into homes.”
Local Chick-fil-A owner Tim Birchfield has already committed to continue his support for the program this school year and Cloyd invited other area restaurants to become involved as well.
White said, “I cannot tell you what a blessing it was to find those meal cards in my box right before Thanksgiving. ... Together we can make a real difference for these kids.”
For anyone who would like to add their support to the program, donations for Food for Thought program may be made online at ffthought.webs.com or by mail to Food for Thought, 2717 Cherokee Road, Johnson City, TN 37604. More information about the program can be found at the website or may be obtained by calling Cloyd at 926-4755.
If there is a need or a project in your neighborhood the Good Neighbor column can assist with, contact Sue Guinn Legg at firstname.lastname@example.org, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605 1717 or 929-3111, ext. 335.