Summer Meals Month time to act on local child hunger; resource fair coming to Erwin

Sue Guinn Legg • Jun 5, 2019 at 10:50 PM

Bringing attention to the plight of the more than one in five children in Northeast Tennessee who are food insecure, Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy has proclaimed June to be Summer Meals Month in the county.

To increase awareness of the need and the work that is being done to help it, the proclamation cues in on 21.3% of local children who do not have regular access to adequate food and the increased risk of illness, behavioral problems, poor academic performance and long-term social and economic consequences that stems from childhood hunger.

For the many children who receive free and reduced-price meals at school, the proclamation makes note that low-income families struggle to come up with the estimated $300 a month in additional groceries needed to feed their kids when school is out and that summer feeding programs play a crucial role in preventing those children from going hungry.

“By increasing awareness about summer meal programs through community outreach, Washington County increases access” to free, healthy meals for children during summertime and “is committed to ensure no child goes hungry this summer.”

With the proclamation, Second Harvest Food Bank has launched a campaign to get the word out to every family with a child in need that free summer feeding sites are available and is asking everyone to share some vital information on how to put prospective families in touch.

Josie Russell, community relations manager for Second Harvest, said, “As part of our outreach to ensure that every family knows about the Summer Food Service Program, we are asking supporters to share the following information about the national No Kid Hungry text line on their social media pages:

“Free summer meals for all kids and teens! Text ‘Food’ to 877-877 to find sites near you.”

The test will generate an immediate reply from No Kid Hungry requesting the family’s street address, city, state and zip code, and a followup listing of summer feeding sites near their home.

Regardless of who the site sponsor may be, Russell said, all the listed feedings are open for any child or teen age 18 or younger to receive regular meals during the summer.

Information about summer feeding sites for kids in the eight counties of Northeast Tennessee may also be obtained by calling the food bank at 423-279-0430.

Donations to help support Second Harvest’s summer feeding programs may be made online at netfoodbank.org or by mail to Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee, 1020 Jericho Drive, Kingsport, TN 37663.

On Saturday, June 15, Second Harvest will be teaming up with a variety of human service agencies at work in Unicoi County to connect families and individuals in need with resources that can help.

The “Stable Lives, Stable Communities — Uniting Unicoi” event will be held from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at Evergreen Free Will Baptist Church, 901 Hoback Street, Erwin.

Second Harvest will have its Mobile Food Pantry on site for a small food distribution to be held during the event and representatives of other agencies will be on hand to distribute information about services including job placement, housing, child care, assistance with aging and disabilities, health care, counseling, domestic violence, volunteer opportunities and more.

The resource fair is part of a new strategic plan being implemented by the food bank in attempt to end the cycle of poverty that leads chronic hunger by helping at risk individuals and families access to services that can help.

Second Harvest Executive Director Rhonda Chafin said, “We are grateful to be able to feed people who need it during uncertain times, but we also realize that we can do so much more to help provide resources and opportunities to encourage life-stabilizing solutions for the people we serve.”

More information about the Uniting Unicoi event may be obtained by calling the food bank at 423-279-0430 or by email to [email protected]

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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