Ministry combats child hunger in Hawkins County

Ministry combats child hunger in Hawkins County

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The Lunch Box is a renovated school bus that stops in six areas of Rogersville. The Lunch Box is a renovated school bus that stops in six areas of Rogersville.
Children enjoy their healthy lunch which follows the same guidelines as school approved meals in Hawkins County. Children enjoy their healthy lunch which follows the same guidelines as school approved meals in Hawkins County.
"We hear the children say we didn't have enough food in the house to eat. It makes you want to get up in the morning," said the Lunch Box bus driver Paul Beckner. "We hear the children say we didn't have enough food in the house to eat. It makes you want to get up in the morning," said the Lunch Box bus driver Paul Beckner.

By KRISTIN FARLEY
6 News Anchor/Reporter

ROGERSVILLE (WATE) - For the past seven years, a local ministry has been fighting child hunger thanks to a handful of volunteers and a renovated school bus.

More than 16 million children live in households that have trouble putting food on the table. In Tennessee, one in four children rely on government assistance to eat.

The magnitude of the situation was highlighted last week in a Washington Post article about a Greene County program called the Lunch Express. It runs through Second Harvest Food Bank in Northeast Tennessee.

The program is actually modeled after The Lunch Box in Hawkins County started by Of One Accord Ministry.

Along a six-stop route, the renovated school bus honks its horn to alert kids their lunch has arrived.

The kids are given about 20 minutes to eat their sack lunch. On Thursday, it was barbeque chicken, carrots, an apple and milk. Each lunch follows the same guidelines as school approve meals in Hawkins County.

Kaleah, 9, along with her twin sister and their little brother, come on board the Lunch Box every day. She says she enjoys the hot meal.

"Everybody needs to eat. That's why it's here for people that don't much," said Kaleah.

She doesn't hesitate when asked if she knows what it feels like to be hungry. "It feels like I am going to get sick sometimes when I don't eat," she said.

Bus driver Paul Beckner knows the stories all too well. While he stresses there are different levels of need, he knows for some of these children, it will be the only food they see all day.

"We hear the children say we didn't have enough food in the house to eat. It makes you want to get up in the morning," said Beckner.

The final stop of the day is at the Rogersville city pool where 6 News found a young boy who's been fed by the bus for nearly five years.

Malachi, 11, said just a few years ago, he didn't miss a day on the Lunch Box. If he did, his options were limited.

"[We had] cereal and stuff like that. That's what we'd buy. And canned foods... Stuff like that," said Malachi.

In just about three hours a day, Beckner and these young volunteers serve dozens of children.

"It gets to you sometimes," said Beckner, fighting back tears.

Of One Accord Ministry is always open to monetary donations. This money goes to food as well as the bus maintenance and fuel. If you're interested in donating, visit this website.

Other agencies in East Tennessee that help feed hungry families include the Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee and Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee.

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