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Second Harvest receives grant to help local hungry children

Representatives from Second Harvest Food Bank received a $2,500 grant from Food Lion’s corporate office on Saturday following a food drive held during the town of Erwin’s Christmas parade.
According to Rhonda Chafin, executive director of Second Harvest, the grant, which will go to support Second Harvest’s Food for Kids Backpack Program, will provide aid to hungry children in Unicoi County.
“The Erwin (Food Lion) store was selected to present the check because it is the most active store in the region,” Chafin said. “The grant will be used to support 27 children in Unicoi County, providing them with food every two weeks for the entire school year.”
Chafin reported that Second Harvest is currently providing food to 197 children in Unicoi County, who have been identified by school system teachers or guidance counselors as chronically hungry.
“Chronically hungry children are those who go home to little or no food,” Chafin explained. “Not only are these children on free or reduced lunch, but they also go home on the weekend and get very little to eat.”
Chafin explained that at the beginning of the year, Second Harvest had enough funding for 102 children in Unicoi County. However, 95 more children were then identified as chronically hungry. Second Harvest was able to come up with the additional funding to help the extra children, and now that they have received the grant, even more children can be helped.
According to Chafin, the food bags for the children contain peanut butter, pudding, apple sauce, cereal, soups, cans of pasta and beans and franks.
“It costs $93 to sponsor one child for the entire year,” she said. “That’s 15 bags of food.”
In addition to the Food for Kids program, representatives from Second Harvest are still calling for regular food donations to distribute to the county’s local pantries.
Chafin explained that while she doesn’t have exact totals from Saturday’s food drive, donations seemed to be down from previous years.
“The food boxes were the most successful,” she said. “People had come into (Food Lion) and purchased pre-made boxes. We had a tremendous amount of those. There was food that was handed to us through the parade route, but it seemed to be down from previous years.”
Rocky Tilson, assistant manager at the Erwin Food Lion, said volunteers were able to collect enough food donations at the parade to fill half a large watermelon bin. However, when combined with donations from the store’s drop box, they were able to fill the bin completely. In addition, county residents purchased around 400 pre-made boxes at Food Lion.
“We had an excellent time as we always do,” Tilson said. “Every little bit counts, and it will definitely go to a good cause.”
Both Chafin and Tilson noted that county residents can still donate to Second Harvest at the Food Lion in Erwin.
“People may have gotten busy and forgot,” Chafin said. “They may have come to the parade and forgotten their food. But people can still donate. It’s not too late. If you didn’t get a chance, you can bring your donations to (Food Lion) or purchase one of their pre-made boxes.”
Chafin urged residents to donate to the food bank, stating that the need in Unicoi County has grown over the past couple of years. She added that three major pantries in the county rely upon donations from Second Harvest in order to serve those in need.
“People can still give,” Chafin said. “If they saw the trucks at the parade and the shopping carts and noticed they were a little empty, they can still give.
Tilson said Food Lion hopes to partner with Second Harvest and The Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce again at next year’s parade.
“We hope to continue doing this every year,” Tilson said. “We’ll make it an annual event.”