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National food drive to run with Saturday's mail; Second Harvest releases data on local hunger

Sue Guinn Legg • May 8, 2019 at 9:43 PM

Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee has had a difficult year and continues to struggle to meet the local need.

On Saturday, the largest single-day food drive in the nation will give everyone an opportunity to fight hunger in their own community as the 27th annual National Association of Letter Carriers Food Drive arrives at mailboxes everywhere.

All you have to do is leave a sturdy bag of non-perishable food items in or near your mailbox and your letter carrier will make the delivery.

NALC President Fredric Rolando called the drive “a labor of love” for letter carriers who are proud to see how the impact of the drive has grown. Since its launch in 1993, the drive has resulted in the delivery of more than 1.67 billion pounds of food for people in need.

For the letter carriers, Rolando said, “It's an honor to be able to help people in need all across the country and to do so in a way that brings out the best in so many Americans.”

According to the NALC, the timing of the drive is important to food banks, pantries and shelters that run low on donations after the winter holidays and need for food for children who depend on school meal programs increases with the summer recess of schools.

Locally, 40,000 children in the eight counties of Northeast Tennessee qualify for free or reduced-price school meals and the recent funding challenges faced by the regional food bank is impacting Second Harvest’s ability to meet their summer need.

Rhonda Chaffin, executive director Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee, said Tuesday the food bank’s budget is tight after a year of declining donations that remain at a low ebb.

With the Letter Carriers’ Stamp out Hunger Food Drive coming up on Saturday, the food bank this week released the most recent data on local hunger gathered in a national study conducted by the Feeding America food bank network showing the risk of hunger among children in Northeast Tennessee is greater than the national average.

According to the food bank, the data shows “food insecurity exists in every county in Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee’s service area, with overall food insecurity ranging from a low of 12.9% of the population in Sullivan County to 16.8% in Johnson County.

The study also shows that the region’s children are more likely to be food insecure than adults, with the child food insecurity rate at 21.9% compared to 13.6% for the overall population for Northeast Tennessee.

Most startling, the study showed 22% of Northeast Tennesseans who are food insecure are likely to be ineligible for federal nutrition assistance, meaning many households rely more heavily on charitable food assistance.

Feeding America encourages everyone to visit map.feedingamerica.org to learn what hunger looks like in their community and to become a part of the solution.

Thanks to the National Letter Carriers Association, helping meet that need will be as easy as a walk from your pantry to your mailbox before the mail runs on Saturday.

Monetary donations to Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee may be made by mail to P.O. Box 3327, Johnson City, TN 37602; or online at netfoodbank.org.

If there is a need or a project in your neighborhood the Good Neighbor column can assist with, contact Sue Guinn Legg at 423-722-0538, [email protected] or P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605.

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