East Tennessee food banks seeing record-high needs

Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee has given out a record 24 million pounds of food in the past year.
Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee has given out a record 24 million pounds of food in the past year.
Published: Nov. 20, 2023 at 6:24 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 20, 2023 at 6:37 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - The holiday season is quickly approaching and it’s a time of year that is especially busy for local food banks.

Madison Bowers, marketing manager with Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee, said the organization is seeing record-breaking needs. Second Harvest has given out 24 million pounds of food in the past year, the most in the organization’s history.

“We’ve been distributing more and more food as the years and months go by. Especially this year, we have seen a huge uptick in folks that are needing our assistance,” Bowers said. “We have been purchasing way more volumes of food by this time than we were at this time last year.”

Food and resources donated to Second Harvest are distributed to its more than 600 partner agencies, like food pantries, shelters and churches. From there, food is put in the hands of those in need.

Manna Outreach Ministries in Blount County is one of Second Harvest’s partners. Pam Stott, co-director of the food pantry at Manna, said they’re also seeing higher demand. Stott said they serve approximately 150 families a week.

“We do have people line up waiting to come get food. We open our door at 10 and often times people are in line at 8:30,” Stott said.

Stott has worked in the pantry for more than 20 years. She said the demand right now is a huge jump from last year. Manna is on pace to give out 20% more food than they did at this time last year.

Stott added that these numbers exceed what they saw during and immediately after the pandemic.

“A lot of those government subsidies are going away and the prices of everything is elevated so this has been the most we have seen in the past four to five months,” Stott said.

People can donate time, money and food to Second Harvest to help fill the shelves of its partnering agencies like Manna.

On Dec. 7, all donations made to Second Harvest will be matched. A $1 donation will provide six meals for neighbors facing hunger in East Tennessee.