Combatting hunger in our community

Published 2:00 pm Tuesday, September 13, 2022

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Long winding food lines are not as visible as they were two years ago at the start of the pandemic, but hunger and food insecurity continue, affecting more families in Carter County than most people realize.
Each month a number of churches and local organizations host food give-aways. When First Baptist Church has its monthly food give-away, cars are lined up for a block and wind through the church parking lot for most of an afternoon to get the food bags. There are food give-aways at several other churches as well as at the VFW to veterans and their families. In addition, food is available to families in need at ARM, Hale Community Ministry, and Food for the Multitude.
Many families, particularly the working poor, never recovered from the pandemic’s effect on their jobs, finances, and savings. Others who were starting to get back on their feet are now reeling from the higher prices of food inflation.
Hunger remains very real.
Another driving factor in hunger is the high cost of housing. One local official recently noted: “There are a lot of people who work here who can’t afford to live here.” Rent is up as is the price of homes. Those families many not be able to help pay their rent or mortgage, but if they can get free food, it allows them to meet those other expenses.
As the price of so many products has shot up in recent months — with produce costing at least 25 percent more, and even the cardboard boxes that food banks use for distribution getting more expensive, it has made things that much more difficult.
Food banks report increased demands that have not gone away even as the economy rebounds and COVID lessens its grip. Many families are looking for innovative ways to stretch food supplies.
The poor will always be among us. While food banks and meal programs continue to provide aid to people, they are not meant to be long-term solutions to hunger in our community. There are larger root causes to address, like poverty, affordable housing, jobs that pay livable wages.
Earlier this year, the Elizabethton City Council was asked to lease the building on Highway 19-E that once housed the Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce to become a center of services to help with the working poor and poverty stricken.
Carter Compassion Center, as it will be known, wants to covert the building into a one-stop resource center to meet the many needs of the region’s poverty stricken.
This is a good idea on the part of those who want to help families having a difficult time, and we as a community need to support the idea and the people behind the need.
Rev. Brandon Young, president of the organization, says once the center is up and running, it will eventually benefit the whole community. It’s not a organization that will do just hand-outs to the down and out, but will be a liaison between those in need and a mentoring program that will mentor them through the process of getting out of the multi-generational poverty that they’re in.
Once operational, the center hopes to offer a variety of resources including parenting classes, rural health clinics, veteran and women’s services and unemployment resources for those who may not have a computer or internet to fill out the proper forms.
This is a beginning to combat poverty and hunger in our community.
In the rich bounty of this nation, no child should go to bed hungry. These churches and organizations that sponsor the monthly give-aways are aiming to making that a reality.

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