It's an all-too-familiar and troubling story -- the need to feed the hungry is growing in our region, putting a strain on area food banks.
But Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee has hit a record demand just in the first month of the new year. We caught up with officials to find out how they're stretching supplies to feed the hungry.
Two trips a week to Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee means about 12,000 pounds of food to stock the shelves at Of One Accord Ministry. Mickey Wilcox picks up supplies and says it's simply not enough to help the charity feed more families than ever, especially the last few months. "It's not a surprise as we've seen just the way things have been going economically, we've been anticipating this. Is it a strain? Yes, most definitely it is a strain," he said.
But this strain is being felt by the food banks these charities rely on.
Here's a startling number that may surprise you: more than 39,000 people across Northeast Tennessee asked for help from charities that receive supplies from the food bank just in the month of January.
We learned that number shattered Second Harvest Food Bank's 26-year history when it comes to demand. "In fact that is up over 1,000 people since this time last year," said Kathy Smith with Second Harvest Food Bank.
When it comes to why the need is so great at the beginning of 2013, Smith says there's no easy answer. "Most of the food that we took in during our holiday food drives has already been given out and this time of year, there is a low point in our inventory as far as food donations go," she said.
The solution breaks down to food drives. But those aren't until spring and that's why the food bank is relying on the community to make ends meet.
We also checked with Feeding America Southwest Virginia; officials say after the holidays donations tend to drop but the need stays the same. The food bank serves roughly 500,000 households a year from Salem, Virginia stretching all the way to Lee County. However, they've recently added a new site to their mobile food pantry and even more food is needed.