Second Harvest: An estimated 4,500 children are in need of food assistance in Northeast Tennessee

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KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL)- September, also known as ‘Hunger Action Month‘, marks one of the biggest months of the year for Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee.

“Over 60,000 individuals in our region are food insecure. We also see food insecurity rates in our area higher than the national average,” said Rhonda Chafin, executive director of Second Harvest.

Today organizations across the country are taking part in ‘Hunger Action Day.’ Volunteers at Second Harvest were busy packing countless boxes of food.

“We normally don’t have the manpower to pack these bags,” said Chafin. “And we pack about 8,000 bags on a regular basis that have to be packed and distributed. We couldn’t do it without our volunteers.”

Second Harvest provides food assistance to eight different counties

Second Harvest serves eight Northeast Tennessee counties. This summer they served meals to about 1,500 children daily. With school back in session, children in 130 area schools are fed through the food bank’s Backpack Program. 

“We’ve determined that about 4,500 children are in need of food assistance,” said Chafin. “And that’s what we’re packing on a regular basis and we’re distributing. A bag of food will go to that child every other week, and they’ll receive food that they can eat at night and on the weekend.” 

Many Hunger Action Day volunteers came out from local businesses. But for regular volunteers like Thecla Roberts and her family, taking action is routine. 

“It’s just another day coming in. We were here Monday, Tuesday, and today,” Roberts said as her family packed together bags of granola bars for the Backpack Program.

Thecla Roberts and her family package food at Second Harvest

Chafin says while food insecurity rates in the region are high, they are dropping. However, solving the problem involves more than just supplying food. Finding people employment and other help they need is crucial. 

“That’s our strategic direction that we’re looking at for the next five years,” she said. “To not only provide food assistance to individuals, but to start connecting them to services to stabilize their lives.”

You can help Second Harvest whether it’s Hunger Action Day or not. Volunteers, food, and monetary donations are always needed.

“Because people are hungry, every day, year-round,” Chafin said.

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