KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — We’re at the start of the giving season, which means you may be looking for ways to help those in the community who need a little extra help.  

You may want to look to help your local food pantry to give a helping hand. 

A record 24 million pounds of food was distributed by Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee last year.

Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee Executive Director Elaine Streno said this is the time of year when they see more people needing help putting food on the table.  

“We provide about 150,000 meals a month,” she explained. “So that’s a lot.” 

Streno said with inflation and the price of groceries the demand for their services is up about 20 percent. 

“I’ve been doing this a long time and it just seems like the severity and the emotional part of it, that we might not have Thanksgiving if it wasn’t for Second Harvest and of course all of the people who make Second Harvest happen, and that of course is our donors, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen that.” 

One of those community partners is the Knoxville Dream Center and its mobile food pantry.  

“We go out to ten different locations throughout the week, every week Monday through Thursday, really, and basically provide free groceries for people,” Knoxville Dream Center Operations Director Ross Jones said. “So, every year we do approximately 200,000 meals in groceries for Knox County.” 

Jones said they feed around 400 people a week. 

“With inflation and different things, there’s a lot of families struggling and this time of year during the holidays too, you know, no one ever wants to struggle but it’s hard this time of year and people are wanting to put their finances to gifts and different things like that and if they can’t do that they start to struggle,” Ross said. “So really our heart is, they can offset the different needs in their lives.” 

Both organizations said they wouldn’t be able to do any of this without monetary and physical donations, and their volunteers. They’re also asking you to keep an eye out for those in the community who might need a little extra help. 

“This is a great time of year to just check on your neighbors, go into your neighborhoods, especially our seniors here in Knoxville,” Jones said, “Go check on them. We always just want to be reminded at this time of year to give.” 

Along with their mobile food pantry, the Knoxville Dream Center serves dinner to the homeless every Wednesday night. We’ll have more information on how you can get involved with both organizations by clicking on the links below.  

Learn More about the Knoxville Dream Center here and Second Harvest Food Bank here.