Page 89 - Cityview May-June 2017
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Inside a home in a neigh- borhood in East Tennessee a single mother struggles
to make ends meet while trying to feed her children. Seniors in an affordable housing complex sit in their apartments feeling the  nancial strain of having to choose between medicine or food. A set of parents shop for what they can at a corner store because they live miles from the fresh food in a grocery store.
Food insecurity comes in many forms, and while the number of food insecure homes in the United States has trended down in the last few years, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, the issue is far from gone.
Nearly 15.8 million households in the country were food insecure at some point during 2015, meaning that they had limited access to “nutritionally adequate and safe foods,” those which meet the USDA guidelines. And while many organizations are working diligently to address this need, one organization has pioneered innovative solutions to meet the region’s food access challenges: Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee.
The Mission
Second Harvest opened its doors 35 years ago, hoping to lead the East Tennessee community in the fight
to end hunger. The organization distributes more than 18 million pounds of food and other products annually to more than 500 partner agencies within their 18-county service area, an area that, according to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap Project, is home to roughly 184,000 people lacking access to food.
“The hunger issue in east Tennessee is very different and deep,” says Elaine Streno, Executive Director of Second Harvest. “How do we solve that? All of society has to get involved.”
Between running six distinct feed-
ing programs, providing educational programming for partners, and manag- ing an 80,000 square foot warehouse in Sevier County, Streno and her team of 38 have their work cut out for them. How- ever, it’s labor that all those working and volunteering for the organization know is making an impact.
A Strong Community Partner
Second Harvest’s roots rest in Food Sourcing, a program through which nonprofit agencies are able to purchase food at bulk and heavily discounted rates. The food has been donated to the food bank by grocery stores, restaurants, distributors and other outlets. Pallets come to the organization’s facility for redistribution and with the help of volunteers are quickly broken down and disseminated out to the 18 counties.
Nearly 200 agencies place orders throughout the year, such as Knoxville- based Ladies of Charity, a nonprofit agency providing emergency assistance to anyone who walks through their doors seeking help Monday through Friday. The assistance can take the form of clothing, utility bill relief, medicine, rent, infant supplies, and of course, food.
“It’s been a long term relationship with Second Harvest,” says Susan Unbehaun, Executive Director of Ladies of Charity. “However, in the last two years we’ve really been building the strengths between the two nonprofits.”
Today, Second Harvest provides 90 percent of the food Ladies of Charity delivers to its constituents in their typical three-day food packages. Everything is purchased by the pound by the agency and is loaded up from Second Harvest’s warehouse into a 14-foot box truck to head back to the pantry.
“Maybe you just got laid off or something critical happened to you. Life happens to people and that’s what we’re here for,” Unbehaun says. “[Our
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