GRAY, Tenn. - Some Northeast Tennessee students are helping people struggling to feed their families.
Food insecurity is a bigger problem in our area than many may realize. According to Feeding America, the food insecurity rate in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia ranges from about 12 to 17 percent of the population.
Greene and Johnson counties have the highest percentage of people who live in fear of going hungry at 16.7 and 16.9 percent respectively.
In Smyth County, Virginia, more 13.5 percent of people don't have enough to eat.
The efforts of local high students could help change these statistics. On Tuesday 10 area high schools worked together to help those in our region who face the greater challenge of hunger.
"This event is about getting local high schools in a month-long food drive to get them involved in their community and to really see the need of hunger in the community," said Megan Longtain, event coordinator for the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee.
The students along with the Second Harvest Food Bank kicked off the drive with a bang.
It won't be long before they get down to business by encouraging classmates and the community to fill up donation boxes. Longtain tells News 5 that last year they raised more than 47,000 pounds of food. This year the bar has been set even higher at 50,000 pounds, which is enough to fill a tractor-trailer.
That goal doesn't deter Daniel Boone High School's Shelia Clark, who has challenged her students for more than 15 years. During that time she's seen the face of hunger change. "At school, you don't know who is going hungry. I think that is the appeal of the program is, that we do give food to people in our area," said Clark.
During the 2013 fiscal year the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee has distributed 8.8 million pounds of food through local food bank agencies and programs.
The participating school will receive cash awards and the schools with most food raised will receive a bonus.
High schools participating in the food drive this year are West Greene, Daniel Boone, Hampton, Providence Academy, Tri-Cities Christian, Sullivan North, Dobyns Bennett, Cloudland, David Crockett and Elizabethton.
If you like to make food donations, please contact the individual school in your area to see when they will collect community donations.