by Kevin Cummings, Messenger Staff Writer
Note: This is the second in a series of articles related to the Monteagle-Sewanee Rotary Club’s Hunger Walk on Sept. 1, which will raise funds for local food banks. For more information on the Hunger Walk, visit <monteaglerotary.org/hunger.html>.
Truck drivers delivered more than 145,000 pounds of food in the past year from Chattanooga and Nashville to feed people in Grundy, Marion and Franklin counties.
At Morton Memorial UMC Food Ministry in Monteagle, drivers from the Chattanooga Area Food Bank transported almost 55,000 pounds of food to the ministry from July 2017 through June 2018. That food is in addition to 42,787 pounds of fresh produce the food bank delivered in the same time period through the Produce Empowerment Program (PEP).
For $50 per month, Morton Memorial receives at least 3,500 pounds of garden foods through PEP, a program designed to provide fresh produce and reduce waste.
For the rest of the food, the ministry paid about 30 cents per pound to the Chattanooga Area Food Bank, according to an annual report.
Between 100 and 120 people pick up food at the church on the second Tuesday of every month, said Amy Wilson, director of Morton Memorial’s food ministry.
“That doesn’t represent how many people that food touches,” she said. “It may be that 100 people come and get food but then that really represents maybe 300 people that get fed.”
Statistics from the Feeding America organization show that 16.5 percent of Grundy County’s population, or 2,220 people, were food insecure in 2016. Food insecurity means having a lack of access at various times to “enough food for an active, healthy life,” according to the USDA.
In Marion County, 3,990 people, or 14.1 percent, were food insecure, and 5,150 people, or 12.5 percent of Franklin County’s population did not have adequate access to enough food in 2016.
A truck from Chattanooga arrives at Morton Memorial on the Thursday before distribution day, and volunteers—about five of which are also food recipients—spend time unpacking the food. Monteagle Silo Company lends the food ministry a forklift for the effort, Wilson said. On distribution day, about 10 food recipients also help give out food.
At Community Action Committee (CAC) at Otey Parish in Sewanee, program director Betty Carpenter said CAC receives about two tons of food per month, 48,000 pounds per year, from Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee.
For every $1 CAC spends with Second Harvest, they receive $4 worth of food, she noted.
A volunteer drives a flatbed truck to pick up the goods each month.
“For a small operation, we depend on volunteers to keep things running smoothly, from collecting the tons of food in Nashville to unloading the truck and stocking the shelves,” Carpenter said. “We distribute groceries daily and those who need our help can come once a week to get a bag of groceries and loaf of Bread Peddler bread.”
Of course, local food banks also garner some food locally. For example, Carpenter said at services on the first Sunday of each month, Otey Parish and St. James Episcopal Church collect items from parishioners.
Donations are vital to the local food programs and to that end, the Monteagle-Sewanee Rotary Club is hosting the fourth annual Hunger Walk on Sept. 1 to raise funds for Morton Memorial and CAC.
John Noffsinger, chair of the Hunger Walk committee, said the 2017 Hunger Walk garnered $7,000 for each food bank, as well as $2,500 for Blue Monarch, a program that helps mothers overcome drug addiction, domestic abuse and financial challenges.
“The purpose of the walk is to educate and raise awareness about food insecurity on the Plateau and then to raise funds to support the work of the food pantries on the Mountain in combating the food insecurity faced by many of our families,” he said.
The proceeds have increased each year and the goal this year is to raise more than $19,000, Noffsinger said, noting that eight more business partners are needed to reach that goal. As of Aug. 20, there were 55 total partners, which already exceeds last year’s number of 50.
“The walk would not be possible without all the community support, all the businesses who step up as partners, and The University (of the South) who has stepped up with refreshments and food for the walkers,” he said. “The support we receive from VISTA and from the Delta Tau Delta fraternity makes it so much easier to make the walk possible. Plus, having the use of the Mountain Goat Trail is helpful.”
Lodge Manufacturing is the title sponsor for the second year in row, Noffsinger noted.
Registration on the day of the event begins at 8 a.m. at Angel Park in Sewanee and the five-mile walk starts at 9 a.m. Registration cost is $25 for non-students and $15 for students, with each walker receiving a T-shirt. To register in advance or for more information, visit <monteaglerotary.org/hunger.html>.