Organizations, schools prepare to feed children during shutdown

Johnson City Press • Mar 16, 2020 at 9:11 PM

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s sweeping recommendation Monday for schools statewide to close for at least the rest of the month left many asking how to best serve the students and families who rely on free or reduced-price meals.

As local school district administrators worked out schedules and made contingency plans, most of their official statements said they were still working out how to provide meals to their students.

Several area food banks and nutrition services outlined the availability of their services during the COVID-19 pandemic after the governor announced his recommendation.

Below is a list of some of those organizations and their services and available school district food distribution plans:

Assistance and Resources Ministry

Assistance and Resources Ministry will distribute food only with a drive-thru pick-up to its ARM clients starting March 17 at 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. at 714 W. C St., Elizabethton. Clients are asked to follow signs and stay in their cars.

Clothing distribution has been suspended until further notice. Younger volunteers are needed during this time to staff food pickup. Call 423-542-0919 to volunteer. Food donations will continue to be accepted.

ARM hours are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with lunch closure between 12:30 and 1:30 p.m.

Head Start

The Upper East Tennessee Human Development Agency will continue to provide meals to Head Start children affected by school closures throughout its six-county region. The agency’s staff is working with partnering school systems to ensure participant children continue to receive needed nutrition as schools are unexpectedly closed.

The agency will distribute meals to the homes of our Head Start Children during this crisis. These meals are being provided to alleviate some of the food concerns moving forward during this time.

“This is new territory for many of our families and neighbors and we want to provide all the resources available to us to assist our families during (a) crisis,” said Eliot Hicks, Head Start director for the Upper East Tennessee Human Development Agency. “Many working families are being hit hard during this time as they try to achieve a balance between work and child care with the unexpected shutdown of our region’s schools.”

Agency staff will be working with families during this crisis to provide additional resources to meet the additional needs of families by providing materials to provide educational opportunities at home, until the crisis has passed or summer break.

Commodity Distributions

The Upper East Tennessee Human Development Agency will also adjust all Commodity Distributions for March. Items will be distributed through a drive-thru option on a first-come, first-served basis to income eligible households until all commodities are gone. This will provide for the safety of recipients as well as the volunteers and staff.

All recipients must be residents of Tennessee to be eligible for this service. Each recipient must have a Light Blue colored commodity ID card in order to pick up their commodities. An ID card is obtained by completing an application at your area Neighborhood Service Center.

The agency encouraged each recipient to complete the application the week prior to the date of your distribution, as this will reduce your wait time during the distribution. However, staff will be available on-site during the distribution to assist participants in acquiring a required commodity card. If someone other than you will pick up your commodities, they must have your ID card and be authorized on your application to pick up your food; limits to pickup are five orders.

The distribution will begin at noon and will end at 2 p.m. or earlier if food is no longer available. Also, volunteers may be available to help elderly and disabled persons carry their commodities.

Misrepresentation of need, or sale or exchange of USDA commodities is prohibited and could result in a fine, imprisonment, or both. USDA's Emergency Food Assistance Program is available to all eligible recipients regardless of race, color, national origin, age, sex or disability.

For the locations of service centers, visit uethda.org.

Second Harvest Food Bank

Second Harvest Food Bank officials are requesting monetary and food donations so that the organization can meet the additional food needs in our region. Emergency food distribution sites are being established should individuals, families and elderly need food assistance.

Currently, Second Harvest and community pantry/soup kitchen partners continue to operate normal hours.

“We are working with agency partners to establish emergency disaster pantries and communicating with school officials to determine if mobile pantries are needed. The food bank has established critical function plans to maintain basic business operations if needed,“ said Rhonda Chafin, executive director of Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee.

Chafin said items needed immediately are:

• Monetary donations to purchase and transport emergency food boxes
• Shelf-stable donated food items
• Antimicrobial wipes and hand sanitizers
• Non-food items (bathroom tissue, cleaning supplies, paper towels and personal hygiene products)

For more information, contact Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee at 423-279-0430 or visit netfoodbank.org.

School programs

Carter County

Beginning March 18, lunch will be provided to any child up to 18 years old at pickup sites at five locations throughout the county.

The locations are:

• Happy Valley Elementary, 1840 Milligan Highway, Johnson City
• Hunter Elementary, 145 Hope St., Elizabethton
• Hampton High, 766 1st Ave., Hampton
• Cloudland Elementary, 8540 US-19E, Roan Mountain
• Little Milligan School, 4226 US-321, Butler

Children must be present to receive lunch, and all buildings will be closed to the public.


Students ages 18 and under will be able to receive meals during the closure from 9 to 9:30 a.m. for breakfast and from noon to 12:45 p.m. for lunch.

The locations are:

• East Side Elementary, 800 Siam Road
• Harold McCormick Elementary, 226 S. Cedar Ave.
• West Side Elementary, 1310 Burgie St.

These meals will be distributed using a car line pickup process in the parking lots. Everyone is encouraged to stay in their cars during the distribution process.

Adults may also purchase a meal for $3.75.

These cafeterias will not be open for sit-down meals. These meals will also not be available during spring break.

Washington County

Beginning March 18, Washington County Schools’ Nutrition Department will have lunch available at four county schools each weekday for any child under 18.

The four sites are:

• David Crockett High School, 684 Old State Route 34, Jonesborough
• Daniel Boone High School, 1140 Suncrest Drive, Gray
• Jonesborough Middle School, 308 Forest Drive, Jonesborough
• Boones Creek Elementary School, 132 Highland Church Road, Johnson City

Federal guidelines dictate that the child be present to receive free lunch. Each school site will provide drive-up, curbside service, where cars will drive to the pickup area and have lunch handed to the child instead of the children coming into the school.

Lunch will be served weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. The days and sites are subject to change.

For more information, call Washington County Schools’ Nutrition Department at 423-753-1100.

Unicoi County

Beginning March 18, the Unicoi County Schools Food Service Department will provide meals during the closure to all children from ages 1 through 18.

Each elementary school will have a drive-thru at their location for parents and students to pick up meals from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

The schools’ locations are:

• Unicoi, 404 Massachusetts Ave., Unicoi
• Love Chapel, 600 S. Mohawk Drive, Erwin
• Rock Creek, 1121 E. Erwin Road, Erwin
• Temple Hill, 797 Old Hwy Road, Erwin

The district will also provide meals via bus routes. Buses will run their regular routes Monday through Thursday, beginning at 11 a.m. and stop at each bus stop to drop off meals.

Meals will need to be picked up by students/children at the bus stop. There will not be any meals left that are not received at the stop.

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