Second Harvest Food Bank is expanding its mobile pantry food distributions to under-served areas of Northeast Tennessee thanks to the gift of a 24-foot refrigerated truck from the national Feeding America food bank network and the Idol Gives Back Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the American Idol television series.
The $275,000 truck, custom equipped with retractable canopies and dry, refrigerated and frozen food bays, is one of 10 mobile pantry vehicles presented by the foundation and national food bank network to regional Second Harvest food banks across the country.
Rhonda Chafin, executive director of Second Harvest of Northeast Tennessee, said the truck will transform the food bank’s mobile pantry program and meet a critical need for food in rural areas of region where people do not have community pantries or soup kitchens to turn to.
According to Chafin, the new truck will overcome several limitations of the food bank’s current fleet of vehicles and allow it to distribute more food as well as food of greater nutritional value, including meats, dairy products and other perishable items from local grocery distributors that donate to its daily food recovery program.
Chafin said the gift has come at a time when the need for food assistance is at an all-time high, up by 50 percent nationally and 46 percent in the local region since 2007.
Expansion of the mobile food pantry program will begin immediately with 14 mobile pantry distribution days planned in December, up from seven distribution days in November. New distribution sites have been added and will include locations in Unicoi, Johnson and Hawkins counties that Chafin described as some the most under-served communities in the region.
Chafin encouraged people in rural areas who are in need of food and without access to a pantry or soup kitchen to call the food bank at 477-4053 for directions to a distribution site in their area.
With expansion of the mobile pantry program, Chafin said more community support will be needed to keep the new truck full and on the road.
“The truck is a significant donation, but every donation, from a can of food to a truck, is important,” she said.
The food bank also announced its new presence on social media Thursday, including new sites on Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, LinkedIn and YouTube.
“We are very excited about advancing our brand through social media,” Chafin said. “It is a fact that social media is the way of the future and having our organization visible through these media only makes new audiences aware of our goal of feeding hungry citizens in Northeast Tennessee.”
Chafin encouraged those who wish to learn more about the food bank or to donate to visit www.netfoodbank.org, www.facebook.com/netfoodbank, www.twitter.com/2ndHarvestNETN, www.foodbanknortheasttn.wordpress.com, www.linkedin.com/in/netfoodbank or www.youtube.com/2dHarvestNETN.