The food bank hopes to meet that need again this year as part of its Summer Food Service Program, which kicked off during a news conference on Thursday.
The organization also held a celebration for Red Nose Day, which is a fundraising campaign aimed at ending childhood poverty.
Meeting the need
Rhonda Chafin, executive director of Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee, said many students rely on the Summer Food Service Program to sustain them when school isn’t in session.
“(It’s for) children that really, truly weren’t able to think about anything but where their next meal was going to come from,” Chafin said. “It wasn’t going to come from free lunch, it wasn’t going to come from free breakfast, it wasn’t going to come from the backpack program because schools are closed. So they really were looking for our program.”
In Sullivan County alone, 526 children were served by the program last year, and a total of 6,992 meals were served. The program also served hundreds of children in Greene, Hancock, Washington, Carter and Unicoi counties.
How the program works
Chafin said meals will be provided to children at 70 sites this summer. Some of those sites are stationary, while others are mobile sites administered through the food bank’s Lunch Express program. A full list of sites is available at netfoodbank.org/services.
The food program’s menu is USDA-approved, just like the free and reduced lunch program in schools, and uses a combination of packed meals and thaw-and-serve meals. Chafin added that the program will also serve adults this year, thanks to generous donors.
“We’ve been really blessed to receive some additional food donations, and we will provide adults that come to the bus with their children a meal, and they can eat with their child,” Chafin said. “They will also leave with boxes of food.”
Sponsors of this year’s program include Ballad Health, the Arby’s Foundation, the Tennessee Department of Health, Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign and Enterprise Rent-a-Car Foundation’s summer feeding grant through Feeding America.
How long will it last?
Heidi Davis, coordinator of the Summer Food Service Program, said the program will officially begin serving meals next week and will continue for a little over two months.
“It should end toward the beginning of August when (the children) start going back to school,” Davis said. “So we try to run as long as we can.”
For more information, visit netfoodbank.org.