BRISTOL, Tenn. (WJHL) — Second Harvest Food Bank and Feeding Southwest Virginia held a press conference Friday to thank Reps. Diana Harshbarger and Morgan Griffith for their efforts to get the Appropriations Act of 2023 passed into law.

The act gives schools and other community partners the ability to give out food for children and families to take home. Before the act was signed, summer food programs had to provide on-site-only meals.

Rhonda Chafin, executive director of Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee, said this new law will help them provide food for families more efficiently.

“With this non-congregate waiver, we estimate that we will serve at least 650 children,” said Chafin. “I believe that we will far exceed that number as a result.”

Chafin said they started advocating for this change because of rural counties where families could not meet for on-site meals.

“This means that they’ll have access to food, especially in rural areas where there’s no gathering place, there’s no children’s feeding program, there’s no children’s program at all,” said Chafin. “We are able to operate our programs in those rural areas now based on this non-congregate rural waiver.”

Reps. Griffith and Harshbarger attended the announcement and said their goal is to not let any child go hungry.

“People should understand that there are children going to bed, in this day and time, they are going to bed hungry,” said Harshbarger. “They go home to an empty household, nothing in their refrigerator, and that’s unacceptable.”

The Appropriations Act allows food banks, schools, and other community partners a chance to provide pick-up and delivery meals for families in need.

“We’re able to give them their meals so they can take them home and they can eat them and they can have adequate time to eat rather than keep them in a congregate setting with a very short time frame to consume their meals,” said Chafin.

Families in need of food this summer can contact their child’s school, Second Harvest Food Bank, or Feeding Southwest Virginia.