MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Hunger can affect anyone, and that’s why Nexstar Media Group is teaming up with Feeding America to bring awareness and help end food insecurity during the month of September, which is Hunger Action Month.
Feeding America is the nation’s largest domestic hunger relief organization. It’s a nationwide network with 200 food banks and 60,000 community partners coast to coast.
One of those food banks is here in East Tennessee serving 18 counties: Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee.
“Hunger doesn’t look like a person, doesn’t sound like a person. Everyone in their lifetime can experience hunger,” Madison Harmon, the communication and digital media coordinator for Second Harvest, said.
Harmon said Second Harvest is able to help feed hungry stomachs through volunteers, donations, partnerships and eight different programs.
Those programs are arranged to reach every demographic in every corner of East Tennessee: Food for Kids, School Pantry, Food Sourcing, Senior Outreach, Food Rescue, Rural Route, Mobile Distributions and Nutrition Access.
“There’s plenty of food on this planet and our job is to make sure that those in our area who need it the most are receiving the food that they need. We serve children, seniors and families. We don’t care what you look like, we don’t care what you sound like. We just want to make sure that you’re getting that basic need met,” Harmon said.
When the pandemic hit, Harmon said even more people were in need of food they couldn’t afford themselves.
Harmon said during that time, when people were losing jobs and didn’t know when their next paycheck would be, Second Harvest jumped into emergency mode, filling emergency food boxes to get out to families.
During that time, they saw the need for food grow.
“So, a lot of drive-thru distributions happened. You know, we had a lot of folks lining up at our distributions to be picking up for themselves or their neighbors, their families. The community really came together and realized that we were here and that they can utilize us,” Harmon said.
Harmon said Second Harvest also had a huge growth of support during the pandemic.
Second Harvest of East Tennessee is based in Blount County. The warehouse at 136 Harvest Lane is a sight to see with rows of huge shelves filled with food.
Harmon said those shelves wouldn’t be filled if it wasn’t for volunteers and donations.
“Without our volunteers, we would have to hire essentially 14 to 15 employees, because our volunteers bring in about 23,000 hours throughout the year,” Harmon said.
For every dollar donated, Harmon said that’s three meals one person doesn’t have to worry about. The majority of that dollar, 96 cents worth, goes to buying food in bulk.
If Second Harvest doesn’t purchase the food, it’s donated. Harmon said they are always taking food donations.
“Here at our warehouse, we’re open six days a week from about 8 to 4. So, if you are cleaning out your kitchen and you find some extra cans you weren’t in need of, come bring them to us. We’re more than happy to take those off your hands,” Harmon said.
Second Harvest is always in need of volunteers and donations. If you’re wanting to help end food insecurity, you can head over to the non-profit’s website at https://secondharvestetn.org/.
If you’re in need of food, you can find a list of local food pantries by clicking this link: Second Harvest Food Pantries.