​Food Banks Meeting the Need

by Bailey Basham, Messenger Staff Writer

A recent study by The United Way of Tennessee found that one in three Tennessee households struggled to afford basic necessities in 2017, including housing, food, child care, health care, transportation and a smartphone. And, according to the ALICE report, the numbers in our area are not good.

ALICE stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed and represents households that work and earn more than the Federal Poverty Level but make less than the basic cost of living for the county.

For locals, that statistic isn’t surprising or new. Food banks on the Mountain have been operating for years, working tirelessly to help meet the needs of area residents.

“This fundraiser serves the three food pantries on our Plateau—the CAC in Sewanee, Morton Memorial in Monteagle and the Grundy County Food Bank in Tracy City. Combined, these food pantries served more than 5,000 families last year distributing more than 340,000 pounds of food,” said Rich Wyckoff, Monteagle-Sewanee Rotary Club member.

Of Tennessee’s 2.5 million households, 39 percent strugggled to meet basic needs, and in Grundy County specifically, more than half of the households were reported as having struggled to meet basic needs that year. In Marion County, the rate is 40 percent.

John Noffsinger, Morton Memorial attendee and member of the Hunger Walk planning committee, said it’s these numbers that spurred the organization to take action in 2015. Last year through The Hunger Walk, more than 200 area residents came together to raise thousands of dollars to support local food banks. In 2017, the group raised $17,000 for area food banks.

“Through this cause, the community has become aware of the food insecurity faced by one in five children in our area, and once people become aware of the hunger issue, they then have an appreciation about how they themselves have been blessed. I believe then the community comes together as Jesus would want his followers to do and we all help those less fortunate,” he said. “Through this cause, the community is able to unite through their giving and their walking to support the one in two families on the Plateau who are in financial hardship and face food insecurity.”

The ALICE study reported that in Tennessee, 38 percent of families with children under the age of 18 have a monthly income that is below the ALICE threshold. And of the demographic groups in the state, people of color, women, LGBTQ+ folks, senior citizens and people with disabilities are more likely to live in households that fall below the threshold.

“From the beginning, the Scriptures tell us that we are indeed our brothers keepers. All through the Bible, in fact, we are reminded that we are all connected. What I do affects my neighbor, and what my neighbor does affects me. We live in an area of the state and in fact an area of the country where the need is profound,” said Rev. Jodi McCullah with Morton Memorial United Methodist Church. “It’s through the work of this cause that we are able to see how powerful and effective a strong community response can be.”

The Hunger Walk will be held at 9 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 28. The walk begins at Angel Park in Sewanee. Registration begins at 8 a.m. Registration is free for children under 12, $15 for students and $25 for adults.