Second Harvest has always made it a priority to help children in need have access to food, but it is even more important now as they are seeing unprecedented need.
Leaders with the food bank say Northeast Tennessee’s rate of food insecurity in children is higher than the national average – they are working daily to change that.
“Our goal is to make sure that children have food assistance whether it be through our backpack program, whether it be through our food box program with schools, whether it be through our summer feeding program,” said Executive Director Rhonda Chafin.
These programs all meet kids where they are; like sending them home from school with backpacks full of food. This is a discreet, convenient way to make sure kids who are food insecure have access to food in their homes.
“With the backpack program, we are serving approximately over 4,000 children. With that program we are in 130 schools,” said Chafin.
The food bank partners with local school districts all across the region. School counselors and teachers identify the children who need help.
“They know the children that come to school hungry. They know the children that come to school and don’t have enough to eat,” said Chafin.
“It’s a foundational thing. If they don’t have that met, teaching and learning is hard to do,” said Science Hill High School Assistant Principal Tim Vanthournout.
He says in the Johnson City school district more students are in need of help since the start of the pandemic.
In fact, data from Feeding America shows 1 in 4 Tennessee children are expected to be food insecure following COVID-19’s impact.
“We have seen an uptick in students needing support, needing to utilize the services we get to offer because of the generosity and the programming like second harvest,” said Vanthournout.
Second Harvest says whether they are helping children who are hungry or anyone else who is in need, the way everyone can make a difference is by simply raising awareness.
“That’s what Hunger Action Month is all about. Awareness that there is a serious problem of hunger among our community members. It’s a growing problem and it’s a problem that is solvable,” said Chafin.