The Thanksgiving holiday has many thinking about planning big meals for their families, but for thousands of people in Tennessee a Thanksgiving meal may not be an option.
In fact, many are having trouble providing meals to their families on any day of the year.
“Hunger doesn't just affect people during the holidays,” Second Harvest Food Bank Vice President of Communications Tasha Kennard said. “We are seeing more and more families who are relying on us and our emergency food box providers for assistance.”
Second Harvest supplies food for emergency food boxes that are distributed to families in crisis at 17 sites around Middle Tennessee. The boxes are for families in crisis and provide enough food to feed a family for about three days.
Last month the sites reported an 18% increase in people turning to them for help.
“That's why it is critical we have volunteer support and why we have financial contributions coming in to the food bank year round,” Kennard said.
The increased requests for help come at a time when food banks nationwide are stretched thin. The USDA has cut back on the commodities it provides to food banks. Plus, federal stimulus money organizations used to help buy food and operate have run out.
“If we don't get the donated food or if we don't get the funds we are not going to be able to meet this increased need,” Kennard said. “In Tennessee more than one million individuals are in danger of hunger, 400,000 of those are children.”
One of Second Harvest's newest emergency food box locations is Kayne Avenue Missionary Baptist Church located at 1025 12th Avenue South. The church started distributing the boxes on November 10.
“We always think it is for the poor or it is the homeless looking for food,” Senior Pastor Dr. Vincent Campbell said. “But, we have seen individuals, working class families and we see a lot of our senior citizens.”
The church served more than 100 people last weekend who were in need of emergency food boxes. Each family can only receive three emergency food boxes in a six month period.
“From the door to the check-in table, that is the longest walk of some people's lives,” Pastor Campbell said. “We try to greet them with a smile, a word of encouragement something to let them know we understand that times are hard.”
Pastor Campbell said the church can always use volunteers to help unload food and assist with distribution. All of the food the church gives out comes from Second Harvest Food Bank.
The church distributes food boxes on Wednesdays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from Noon to 4 p.m.
In addition to the food distribution, the church hosts a community meal on Sundays beginning at 6 p.m.
The food bank always accepts monetary donations and donations of food.
The food bank frequently needs items like peanut butter, canned vegetables, tuna and cereal. Second Harvest Food Bank also accepts donations of hygiene products and paper goods.
In person donations can be made at Second Harvest Food Bank, located at 331 Great Circle Road, Nashville.
Food donations can also be made at Kroger stores around Middle Tennessee or online.
During the holidays Second Harvest is working to raise enough money and items to supply 10 million meals.
Last year the organization met its goal of providing nine million meals during the holidays.