Second Harvest Food Bank’s annual Drive for Food Hunger Awareness Convoy rolled through the region Thursday to raise awareness and donations to help the 84,000 residents of Northeast Tennessee who do not have enough to eat.
Trucks and food delivery vehicles from the food bank, local food suppliers including Food City, Food Lion, Walmart and Kroger, and about 20 of the 200 pantries and feeding agencies in the eight-county region served by Second Harvest drove in a police-escorted procession through Bristol, Johnson City and Kingsport to raise awareness of hunger in the region and the need for food donations.
Rhonda Chafin, executive director of the regional food bank serving Washington, Carter, Unicoi, Johnson, Sullivan, Greene, Hawkins and Hancock counties said the convoy, now in its 10th year, brings the food bank supporters and partner agencies together to raise awareness and symbolizes the need for all community members to come together to meet the need.
Speaking to the importance of the convoy, Chafin cited findings from a recent study by the national Feeding America food bank network that shows “emergency food pantries are “fast becoming a regular component” of “long-term strategies to supplement monthly shortfalls in food” in low-income households.
The finding is consistent with statistics gathered from the pantries and feeding agencies served by the local food bank that show 36,000 households in the region are currently receiving monthly food assistance, compared to 27,000 households in 2008.
“What was once an emergency network that was created to help make sure that people had access to food during an emergency has turned into a network that is seeing more regular use to help people fill the gap,” Chafin said.
To help meet the need, Johnson City Commissioner Jane Myron and Kingsport Vice Mayor Tom Parham announced the launch of region-wide Project CAN, a “Communities in Action for Neighbors” food drive challenge through which community members are invited to bring nonperishable food donations to fire stations in Johnson City, Kingsport and other communities through Nov. 15. While Second Harvest has not yet received confirmation that fire stations in Bristol will be collecting food donations for the project, Chafin said Bristol’s participation is anticipated.
Myron, who earlier this month challenged elected leaders across Tri-Cities to initiate efforts to meet the need for food in their communities, said she has invited every community in the region to join in Project CAN and all have agreed to participate. “The challenge is to see who can collect the most tonnage,” Myron said.
In Johnson City, Second Harvest’s donation barrels will be located at five fire stations: Station 3 Headquarters on East Main Street, Station 5 on Broyles Drive, Station 7 on West Walnut Street (the old Jonesborough highway), Station 8 in the Gray Commons shopping center and Station 9 on Carroll Creek Road at Winged Deer Park.
Chafin said other area fire stations may participate by calling the food bank at 477-4053.