New Second Harvest 113,000-square-foot distribution center
KINGSPORT — The CEO of the national Feeding America food bank network commended the Tri-Cities community on Thursday for the 25 years of support for Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee that led to the creation of its new 113,000-square-foot distribution center.
As the guest of honor and keynote speaker for the center’s grand opening celebration, Feeding America CEO Bob Aiken said, “With relationships and collaborations with people, businesses and communities like this, hunger is a solvable issue in this region, across the county and ultimately in society, almost all over the world.”
“There is enough food produced in the United States to feed the entire population. The total population is 400 million people; 49 million people are at risk of hunger and 16 million of the people at risk are children. The primary principle of Feeding America is we can solve hunger by helping people become self sustainable.
“Our child-focused programs, the food backpacks and school bus program that was put together here for the summer feeding are very important programs. We know kids in first through third grades we give food to do better because they have enough nutrition. We know if kids fall behind in first through third grades, it’s is very hard for them to catch up later on. Food has a potential impact on the future of our country and those who are going to grow up and become it’s leaders,” Aiken said.
“This new food bank warehouse will have an incredible impact on hunger in the region. Not only will the larger modern facility enable the Second Harvest Food Bank to provide more meals to people who need it, it will also give them the space to develop programs and services to help strengthen food security in communities across Northeast Tennessee.
“What the food bank has created with this new facility is really quiet a dream,” Aiken said. “It is a testament to relationships the food bank has built across this region.”
Matt Wimberly, president of the regional food bank’s board of directors, said the move to the new facility was a five-year process that began in 2012 with a search for site centrally located, affordably priced building that was accommodating to Second Harvest’s plan for expansion to meet more of the local food need.
Located in the former Sam’s Club building at 1020 Jericho Drive, one mile north of Tri-Cities Regional Airport and Exit 63 of Interstate 81, Wimberly said the new site is centrally located to 200 nonprofit and faith-based feeding agencies across the region that worked in partnership with the food bank to distribute food to 8.8 million people last year.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony included a flag presentation by the Dobyns-Bennett High School Junior ROTC, an invocation by the Rev. Lester Lattany, chairman of the United Way of Tennessee and CEO of the United Way of Washington County, and “a welcome home to Kingsport” salutation from Kingsport Vice Mayor Mike McIntire. He noted Second Harvest first began work in Northeast Tennessee in Kingsport in 1986 as the Tri-Cities Food Bank, distributing 86,000 pounds that year.
The celebration’s luncheon was donated by Darden Restaurants, which include Longhorn Steakhouse, Olive Garden and Red Lobster. Honored guests included local, state and federal law makers and their representatives who helped leverage grant funding for the food bank, food donors and financial supporters, volunteers from many of the food bank 200 partner agencies and the food bank’s own volunteers who were recognized as its “life blood.”
Donors recognized for major contributions to the new facility and the $1.3 million building campaign for its renovation included Walmart corporatin, which negotiated the building sale price the food bank could afford, the Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation which gifted $250,000 for the project, the Walmart Foundation which gave $210,000, the Good Steward Foundation for a $200,000 donation, and a long list of local industrial, business, municipal, civic and individual supporters.
The ceremony also included special recognition of the food bank’s Executive Director Rhonda Chafin for her 20 years of leadership. “We could not have accomplished the relocation without the support and interest of the Northeast Tennessee community,” Chafin said.
Chafin said while the food bank’s $1.3 million building campaign is nearly complete, it is continuing with hope of wrapping up in a few more months.
The food bank encourages the community to be involved in solving hunger in Northeast Tennessee through monetary support, volunteering, food drives and other opportunities outlined at www.netfoodbank.org or available by calling 279-0430.