Category Archives: Uncategorized

All aboard the Lunch Express!

Kids enjoying snacks provided by the food bank

June 27, 2015
by Heidi Davis

“Oh look, there is a crowd already waiting for us, “I said as we pulled into our first stop of this summer on the Lunch Express. We had several parents and fifteen young, eager faces jumping around, ready to get on the Lunch Express for an early lunch.

“Come on in! Sit down and Ms. Heidi will bring you a lunch,” Wayne, our fearless bus driver, repeated as the line of kids filed past him for a squirt of hand sanitizer before taking a seat.

I spent a good deal of time during high school and college working in the afterschool programs and classrooms. One thing that stuck with me the most was children coming to those places hungry because they did not have enough food at home. My time spent learning about hunger in my community inspired me to become an advocate on hunger issues and to work with people in Northeast Tennessee and Feeding America-member Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee to come up with creative ways to bridge our hunger gaps. This is my second summer volunteering to ride the Lunch Express and feed children through the summer feeding program. I am as excited and thankful for this program as the kids are each summer.

One in four children in rural Northeast Tennessee lives at or below the poverty level. Free and reduced school breakfasts and lunches help ensure these children don’t go hungry during the school year, but when school is out for the summer what can they do? Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee Summer Food Program is here to help. The food bank has operated a summer food program for our eight-county region since 2009 at sites like Boys & Girls Club, Girls Inc. and other places where children in need of food assistance may gather. But for children who do not attend these programs, hunger during the summer may be something they face every day. Unable to make it to a traditional site? The Lunch Express comes to you!

Thanks to our donors and supporters, our food bank is able to provide the “Lunch Express” mobile summer food delivery program. The program, which started in 2012, utilizes four refurbished school buses and takes lunches every weekday to children in poor neighborhoods and remote areas of the region. The food bank hires local school bus drivers and Americorp and Summer VISTA workers to staff the project for a 10 week period during June and July.

Our first week we were feeding around 100 kids a day and there are three other bus routes traveling around neighboring counties feeding dozens more. Combine this with our traditional sites and we are feeding over 1000 children a day. They get a nutritious meal or snack five days a week and on the Lunch Express we are sending home food boxes for families every other week. From urban areas to rural places, we are reaching hungry kids and making an impact by helping our families manage food insecurity during the summer.


*Heidi Davis is a current Americorp member working to solve hunger in her community with Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee and as a program leader of Build It Up East TN.

**Photos courtesy of Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee.

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Posted by on July 10, 2015 in Uncategorized


This is National Volunteer Week

Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee Honored our Volunteers for over 20 Hours Service with Lunch Donated by McAlister’s Deli, Kingsport on April 14, 2015.

In observation of National Volunteer Week Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee recognized volunteers who have given 20 hours or more in service over the past year with a Volunteer Appreciation Lunch at the Food Bank, 1020 Jericho Drive, Kingsport, TN on April 14, 2015. Food for the lunch was donated by McAlister’s® Deli, Kingsport. Volunteers are absolutely vital to the overall success of Second Harvest Food Bank. During 2014 over 15,000 volunteer hours were given – an average of 1,764 hours per month. In addition, ten workers were provided through VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) and Americorp.

Each week volunteers sort and box food at the food bank warehouse, fill over 5,000 bags each month for the Food for Kids backpack program during the school year, help distribute food in various communities at over 40 Mobile Food Pantry sites, help give out health and nutrition information through the food bank’s new outreach program, help with office work and much more.

Volunteer information is available on the Second Harvest

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Posted by on April 14, 2015 in Uncategorized


Junior Leagues hold 25th Annual Food Drive on March 21 at Food City stores in Northeast TN and Southwest VA

Here’s one great way to make a difference. Help feed someone in need with a donation to the Junior League Food Drive March 21.

NORTHEAST, TN & SW VA –   The Junior Leagues of Bristol, Kingsport and Johnson City are holding one of the region’s largest food drives again this year at Food City Stores in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. The Junior Leagues encourage everyone to help feed the hungry with a food donation in the March 21 Food Drive. Last year over 18,000 pounds of food was collected and Junior League members are asking the community to help them raise even more food this year.  This is the 25th year of the food drive and the Food Banks applaud The Junior Leagues for their ongoing commitment to helping feed people in need in the region.

Look for food collection bins at participating Food City locations on Saturday, March 21. Junior League Members will give out paper collection bags at participating Food City locations to encourage people to donate food. Promotional fliers will be in area newspapers that week with a list of stores and most needed items including canned and boxed goods such as meats, vegetables, pastas and fruits.

The need for food assistance in our region is at an all-time high. As many as 1 out of 5 people may live in poverty and 2 out of 5 children may be hungry. The Food Banks will collect the donated food from the Food City stores in their areas and distribute through food bank agencies that feed the hungry. Both Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee and Feeding America of Southwest Virginia are members of Feeding America, the Nation’s largest Food Bank Network. Food Banks rely on support from the communities they serve to help feed people in need. Everyone who is able is encouraged to donate to the Food Drive.

The Junior League is an organization of women committed to promoting volunteerism, developing the potential of women and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Its purpose is exclusively educational and charitable. Junior Leagues reach out to women of all races, religions and national origins who demonstrate an interest in and commitment to volunteerism.

For more information visit or

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Posted by on March 16, 2015 in Uncategorized


March is National Nutrition Month – We are sharing this good information on eating right and welcome your comments.

Eat Right

Food, Nutrition and Health Tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Eating Right on a Budget

Getting the most nutrition for your food budget starts with a little extra planning before you shop. There are many ways to save money on the foods that you eat. Here are some budget-friendly tips for eating right.

Plan what you’re going to eat

Before you head for the grocery store, plan your meals and snacks for the week. Review recipes for what ingredients are needed. Check to see what foods you already have and make a list of what you need to buy. When you shop with a list, you will be less likely to buy extra items that are not on it.

Decide how much to make

Making a large batch by doubling a recipe will save time in the kitchen later on. Extra portions can be used for lunches or meals later in the week, or freeze leftovers in individual containers for future use. Plus, foods purchased in bulk are almost always cheaper.

Determine where to shop

Check the local newspaper, online and at the store for sales and coupons, especially when it comes to more expensive ingredients, such as meat and seafood. While at the store, compare prices of different brands and different sizes of the same brand to see which has a lower unit price. The unit price is usually located on the shelf directly below the product.

Shop for foods that are in season

Fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season are usually easier to get and may be a lot less expensive. Your local farmer’s market is also a great source of seasonal produce. Just remember that some fresh fruits and vegetables don’t last long. Buy small amounts at a time to avoid having to throw away spoiled produce.

Try canned or frozen produce

At certain times of the year, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables may be less expensive than fresh. For canned items, choose fruit canned in 100% fruit juice and vegetables with “low sodium” or “no salt added” on the label.

Focus on nutritious, low-cost foods

Certain foods tend to be less expensive, so you can make the most of your food dollars by finding recipes that use the following ingredients: beans, peas, and lentils; sweet or white potatoes; eggs; peanut butter; canned salmon, tuna or crabmeat; grains such as oats, brown rice, barley or quinoa; and frozen or canned fruits and vegetables.

Watch portion sizes

Eating too much of even lower cost foods and beverages can add up to extra dollars and calories. Use smaller plates, bowls and glasses to help keep portions under control. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables and the other half with whole grains and lean meat, poultry, seafood or beans. This is an easy way to eat a balanced meal while controlling portions and cost. To complete the meal, add a glass of fat-free or low-fat milk or a serving of fat-free yogurt for dessert.

Make your own healthy snacks

Convenience costs money, so many snacks, even healthy ones, usually cost more when sold individually. Make your own snacks by purchasing large tubs of low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese and dividing them into one-cup containers. For trail mix, combine nuts, dried fruit and whole grain pretzels or cereal; store small portions in airtight containers. Air-popped popcorn and whole fresh fruits in season also tend to cost less compared to pre-packaged items.

Cook more, eat out less

Many foods prepared at home are cheaper and more nutritious. Also, convenience foods like frozen dinners, pre-cut vegetables and instant rice or oatmeal will cost you more than if you make them from scratch. Go back to basics and find a few simple and healthy recipes that your

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Posted by on March 3, 2015 in Uncategorized


2014 Map the Meal Gap Study Uncovers Hunger in Northeast Tennessee

Nation-wide Research Reveals Poverty to be Most Impactful to Consistent Food Access

Feeding America’s Annual Map the Meal Gap results released today show food insecurity continues to remain high in Northeast Tennessee . According to the newly released data, 14.8 percent of people in the area are food insecure, including 26,830 children.  Nationally, 15.9% of people are considered food insecure according to the study which also shows results state by state.  In Tennessee 17.1% of people are food insecure, above the national average.

Food insecurity is defined by the USDA as a socioeconomic condition of limited or uncertain access to enough food to support a healthy life.  People with low food security say they are worried their food will run out, they cannot afford balanced meals, they cut the size of their meals or skipped meals.

“Studies like Map the Meal Gap 2014 allow Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee to continue to evaluate and adjust to the need in our area. The research data includes weekly food-budget shortfalls, demographics and poverty levels which help us define the social issues plaguing our area and work together as a community to find a solution. Local key findings show the average cost of a meal is $2.77 and the weekly food-budget shortfall is $534,330. This means that 72,580 individuals may be food insecure in Northeast Tennessee.  The average number of people receiving food assistance from agencies and programs of Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee is 40,000 per month.

Map the Meal Gap 2014 is a detailed analysis of food insecurity done by Feeding America and the only study available that provides county–level estimates of food insecurity in the United States. The information is provided in an interactive map that allows viewers to find out how widespread hunger is in their community. The map can be found at




Research for the study was generously supported by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, ConAgra Foods Foundation and Nielsen.


“Hunger is a pervasive and solvable problem plaguing every corner of America today,” said Bob Aiken, CEO of Feeding America. “By continuing to provide extensive and revealing data like the 2014 Map the Meal Gap study, we will be able to tackle these issues head-on and be armed with the information needed to work towards making sure everyone has enough to eat.”


The Map the Meal Gap 2014 analysis was developed by Dr. Craig Gundersen for Feeding America. Food-insecurity rates are based on a state-level model that allows for the population in need of food at the county and congressional district level. Additionally, Feeding America worked in collaboration with Nielsen to arrive at estimates for food-cost variation by county. Results were reviewed by the Feeding America Technical Advisory Group in order to ensure accuracy and promote transparency.

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Posted by on April 21, 2014 in Uncategorized


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How will the Government Shut-down affect food banks?

The following is helpful, accurate information from Feeding America that was issued to Food Banks Oct 2, 2013.

• SNAP – SNAP has statutory authority to continue distributing benefits during October. This authority comes from ARRA, through which Congress provided “such sums as are necessary” to fund the temporary benefit boost. Additionally, about $2 billion in SNAP contingency funds are available and could be used to support state administrative activities to issue and process benefits. Contingency funds are provided in annual appropriations and do not expire until the end of FY2014. SNAP is providing about $6 billion per month in benefits, so unfortunately the contingency funds would not go very far if needed to help fund benefits.

• TEFAP Administration and CSFP-No additional funds would be available to support the Commodity Assistance Programs (CAP) including the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), and administrative funding. While no new funding will be able, existing inventories can still be used. In addition, we expect that if and when funding is provided through a Continuing Resolution, it will be available retroactively, which would allow programs to cover their administrative costs retroactively.

• USDA has no legal authority to continue providing benefits under the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children after Monday, but states may have money and legal authority to fund the assistance for a week or so. Some contingency funds for WIC also may be available, according to the agency, but there is not enough funding to mitigate a shortfall for the entire month.

• Child Nutrition Programs – School breakfast and lunch programs and meals provided in day care settings (CACFP) would continue into October. This is also true for the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the Special Milk Program. School meal program and CACFP providers are reimbursed for meals served 30 days after the end of the service month, so providers would not be paid for meals provided in October until the end of November. Most state agencies will continue to have FY13 funds available for state administrative expenses. State administrative expenses are awarded for a two-year grant period and states are permitted to carry over up to 20 percent of their allocation into the second year of the grant period.

• Senior Nutrition Programs – During a government shutdown, the Department of Health and Human Services will not be able to fund Senior Nutrition programs, which includes both home-delivered meals (Meals on Wheels) and senior congregate feeding programs. Local Meals on Wheels programs will not be affected immediately. Programs are generally reimbursed after meals are already delivered. However, if the government stays closed for a lengthy period of time, this will result in a direct financial loss for Meals on Wheels programs that receive federal funding. Additionally, state or local funding reserves that have been used to make up for sequestration cuts are likely depleted, so any cushion that may have been there to weather the shutdown is gone.

For more information, you can visit the USDA website: and for HHHS

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Posted by on October 2, 2013 in Uncategorized




Artist, Mother, Hotdog Enthusiast

GET UPDATES FROM Liz Joynt Sandberg

I Am ‘Those People’ — Why SNAP Matters to Me

Posted: 05/22/2013  5:41 pm                                                        


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Congress is debating the reauthorization of the Farm Bill this week — a bill chiefly (strangely) concerned with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps as the program is often called. And at a time when almost 48 million Americans receive SNAP (the largest number since the program started 50 years ago), some legislators, and perhaps more immediately head-desking to my daily existence, Facebook friends argue that the benefits are too generous and/or are not an effective use of “my tax dollars” (as though SNAP recipients were somehow magically exempt from paying taxes). There is a lot of talk about bootstraps, and drug tests, and responsibility. And sometimes I’m not sure whether or not I really have the energy to remind them that “those people” they keep debasing are my daughter and me. Sometimes I’m tired of suggesting that maybe they, who’ve never experienced needing SNAP, are perhaps not the most qualified to decide whether or not it’s a necessary program. Perhaps they are far away from understanding the good and necessary help the program brings to recipients. 

2013-05-22-IdaforSNAPpiece.jpgPictured: “those people”

In 2008, when I became unexpectedly (scientifically and statistically astoundingly, really) pregnant, I learned that I qualified for Medicaid and SNAP. I was working full time managing a café, and my husband was in graduate school. We thought about his taking a break from school to work full time, thus potentially circumnavigating our need for the benefits, but decided that with only a year to go and the dramatic increase in earning potential in his field if he finished, it made more sense for us (and for the larger economy, incidentally) to just try to squeak through that last year.

The SNAP benefits were our lifeline for a while. Not only could I afford to buy healthy food for my family, but I could also cook meals for others to trade for childcare so that I could go to work. Food became a currency in my life, because other currencies were not available to me. And believe me, I had to work for it. My family’s file — the sole source of our identification as approved recipients of SNAP and Medicaid — was deleted. Twice. We just vanished from the system, and along with us, hours of painstaking work to get qualified. If you’ve never lived through the nightmare that is applying for aid through the office of Children and Family Services, I wish you a lifetime of ignorance. It’s awful, and grueling, and demoralizing. And the fact that anyone would smugly be thinking,  “Good. It should be awful. That’ll teach ‘those people’ to work for their own and not mooch off the government” is evidence of the scariest human meanness. Because the truth is that most recipients of SNAP benefits are working. They’re working harder than you are.  They’re working much harder than I am presently. Ironically, nobody calls me lazy now.

“It must be nice to just charge whatever you want to the government,” quip Facebook acquaintances as they express their distain for the woman buying Cheetos with manicured nails and her SNAP benefits. No. It’s far from nice. In my experience, it’s a relief to feed your family, but pulling out your LINK card and seeing the person behind you immediately scrutinize your choices as you bag your food is humiliating. I distinctly remember wanting to scream “YES! I see that you disapprove of this box of funfetti cake mix! But it’s my daughter’s birthday and I am so busy working and otherwise bootstrapping that I can’t make a cake from scratch! Please stop being such a monster!” I remember feeling my face get hot as a clerk picked up the speakerphone to ask for a manager to approve my LINK card because the magnetic strip is demagnetized. em>

I can blissfully say, “I remember” because I don’t deal with these things anymore. My husband finished school, got a great job, and additionally started a business. The business is so successful now that he recently left his day job. I spend my billable hours raising our daughter, going to school, writing, and performing. I sometimes find myself thinking that it was almost worth going through such debilitating stress and lack of resources because now I truly appreciate each instance of there being enough. As most folks who’ve been through life-altering times of financial hardship will attest, I would do almost anything to avoid going through it again, but I value the perspective I gained in the process. Never in my life have I felt so profoundly that I am on the other side of something. SNAP was a crucial piece of the bridge I traveled across to get here.

We — the “those people” my ignorant Facebook acquaintances refer to; the folks perpetually “other-ed” by anti-SNAP politicians — are the poster family for how SNAP is supposed to work. We needed a modest amount of help for a short time (which is true of most SNAP recipients). And now, because we got the help we needed, we were able to dig ourselves out. Now it really is “my taxes” that are paying for somebody else’s cake mix. I’m personally delighted with this arrangement. I’ve never felt so lucky in my whole life.

And that’s the way it should feel to have enough resources to support those who don’t. That’s why we decided to live all together and make a union with a government and all that jazz — to be some kind of “us.” Aside from all of the expert analysis supporting SNAP as an incredibly effective form of economic stimulus, boon to public health, and a number of other things that are indisputably in everyone’s best interest, supporting SNAP is saying yes to the idea that we matter to each other on the most basic level. It’s saying that it’s not ever going to be okay with us that some kids get to eat breakfast and others don’t. Supporting SNAP is acknowledging that little bit of help that many of us need at one point or another in our lives to get to the other side of something. And if you’ve never been over there, on that “something” side with “those people,” I’d like to suggest that perhaps your opinions on the matter should be tempered with a little more listening and imagination. It was me. But it could have just as easily been you.

Liz Joynt SandbergArtist, Mother, Hotdog Enthusiast GET UPDATES FROM

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Posted by on May 24, 2013 in Uncategorized