New program benefits families & farmers

Union Co. community effort feeds hungry with local farm produce.
Published: Sep. 15, 2021 at 10:45 PM EDT
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MAYNARDVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Anyone in need of extra help with food in Union Co. can now get a boost from the Fresh Wagon when it visits rural areas.

It’s a mobile food pantry offering first-come, first-serve assistance with groceries that focuses primarily on offering locally grown food.

St. Teresa of Kolkata Catholic Church in Maynardville is including lots of community partners in its mission to feed the hungry while supporting local growers.

Church Pastor Neil Pezzulo said the mission is clear.

“It comes down to Matthew 25: ‘When did we see you hungry and feed you,’” said Pezzulo.

The food pantry travels to a different community in Union Co. each month, with a schedule of locations for Wednesdays online at the Fresh Wagon Facebook page.

When the Fresh Wagon began in June, it served 25 families in the Beech Road area of Maynardville.

On its second food distribution on Wednesday, it served at least that many families again.

These included Amy Evans, who is glad for the health providing for her preschool-aged grandson who stays with her regularly.

“He likes fresh vegetables. He likes fresh fruit,” said Evans.

She said she grows a garden and enjoys canning and cooking.

The Fresh Wagon also offers free recipe books to encourage more people to try new recipes and learn to cook, even if they have not in the past.

The Fresh Wagon ministry of the church accepts donations of funds and food to continue operating.

“It was initially funded by the American Cancer Society with a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation And that initial money provided the infrastructure, it provided the trailer,” said UT Extension Agent Alyshia Victoria.

Inside, the trailer has new freezer and refrigeration accommodations to keep food fresh as needed.

Father Pezzulo said that while he can purchase basic foods like breads and bananas as needed to fill the gaps in basic foods to give away, he is focusing on providing locally grown foods in season.

This mission is also purchasing from local farmers as it aims to feed the hungry.

“These farmers, this is their living,” said Pezzulo. “This is how they put food on their table. This is how they support their families. And that’s just, and that’s holy. Because work in and of itself is admirable.”

Foods available on Wednesday included fresh okra from Kenneth Hayes of Hayes Hollow Farm and ground beef from James Riddle of Seven Springs Farm to Table.

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