They may be your neighbors or your friend’s grandparents or even one of the elementary school children who ride the bus that passes your house each day.
Regardless of who they are, the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee needs community support to lend them a hand this holiday season.
“The top three demographics that we serve are the elderly, children through our children’s programs, and the working poor,” said Second Harvest Executive Director Rhonda Chafin. “Those are the top three areas. It’s not the homeless. It’s not those that don’t have jobs. It’s the working poor. It’s the seniors who are on fixed incomes trying to make ends meet and trying to pay for prescription drugs. ... We’re hearing that they’re trying to live off Social Security that may be $600 a month and their drug costs may be $400. That kind of thing is an example. It’s difficult for a lot of elderly folks who are trying to make ends meet.”
Second Harvest Food Bank is a nonprofit organization serving eight counties in Northeast Tennessee — Carter, Greene, Hancock, Hawkins, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington — with emergency food for distribution. Second Harvest secures food from local and national manufacturers, grocers and restaurants and then redistributes it to 200 food pantries, soup kitchens, children’s programs and other nonprofit charities that work to feed the hungry across the region. Second Harvest is a regional food bank — one of five such food banks in Tennessee.
Chafin said the food bank serves approximately 25,000 individuals through its community agencies and programs each month.
Though they have received a few loads of food and several businesses and community organizations have put together food drives, Chafin said the bank is running low on much needed supplies for the holiday season.
“We have many of our agencies doing the Christmas and Thanksgiving food boxes, and we just don’t have the food they need to put in those boxes,” Chafin said. “There’s lots of opportunities for people to help and give, and we really, truly need that. We are going into the holiday season lower as far as our inventory than last year. We’ve still got to serve all those families and individuals.”
Chafin said the low supplies have forced a rationing of food for local agencies. She attributes the smaller-than-usual food levels to a combination of higher demand and lower donations nationwide.
“We’ve seen a bit of an increase (in numbers of individuals served) because of fuel prices and heating costs, that kind of thing going into the holidays,” Chafin said. “But we have seen a tremendous drop in national food donations. That’s really very difficult to make up the difference locally.”
There are ways, however, for community members to help. Second Harvest is currently accepting monetary donations, which can be earmarked to purchase food. The food bank is able to purchase food at a lower cost, Chafin said, so monetary donations can be extremely helpful.
Individuals can also donate nonperishable food items such as peanut butter, canned tuna, canned meats, canned vegetables, canned fruit, cereal and stuffing.
Another option is to organize a drive for food or a specific item, such as turkey or canned hams. If you are interested in putting together a food drive, call Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee at 477-4053. Chafin said arrangements can be made for the collection or pickup of food, especially those items that would be difficult for the food bank to purchase, but are still needed.
“It’s very difficult for us to buy turkeys because they’re expensive, but our agencies desperately need them,” Chafin said. “So there’s a lot of different things that we can arrange.”
Second Harvest Food Bank is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The organization is located in Gray at 127 Dillon Court.
For more information call Second Harvest Food Bank or visit www.netfoodbank.org.