A board member sent me a somewhat shocking article this week from the USDA Economic Research Service. The first line warned that food insecurity is on the upswing in Tennessee and sadly, according to the latest federal data, Tennessee’s increase is slightly above the national average! Even more shocking was that over the last two years, on average 11.2% of Tennessee households went without food because of money concerns. Even worse 41% of Tennessee parents reported low or very low food security! The article went on to say that food banks are getting contacted more than they ever have before.
This is certainly true for GraceWorks. We have more service requests than ever before. In fact, so far, this fiscal year we have seen a 29% increase in overall requests for assistance. Requests for food certainly contribute to this big increase.
These simple food carts are important in that they don’t just feed families, but they abate several serious effects of food insecurity such as health issues when people must choose between spending money on food or spending it on medicine and healthcare. Or learning problems or stunted growth of children because they are hungry. We have all heard it and some of us have experienced it. It’s true a hungry child can’t learn.
Our services numbers show us Williamson County is not exempt from the growing food insecurity in Tennessee. It is here amongst us.
We see evidence of food insecurity at our Food Pantry. October alone we distributed 909 carts! We see it in our schools. Since the start of the school year, GraceWorks has already distributed 8,568 Fuel Bags and 13,960 Classroom Snack Boxes to our most vulnerable.
We see food insecurity in the surrounding communities we serve. At the Saturday, November 18th Mobile Food Pantry we are expecting 275 families to show up to receive turkeys, all the fix ins for a Thanksgiving dinner and hygiene bags with essentials like toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, soap and such. Families will wait in line as early as 4:30 a.m. for food that won’t be given out until 8:00. Not because they are bored and have nothing else to do, but because they desperately need the food they are about to receive.
You make these impressive number of distributed food carts, fuel bags, and classroom snack boxes possible.
In addition, you negate the Catch-22 that food insecure families are caught in of having to decide between buying food, or paying rent, utilities and other bills. Because along with supporting our food programs, you also make it possible for GraceWorks to offer assistance with rent, utilities and other wrap around services that food insecure families typically struggle with as well!
This season we have a variety of ways for you to partner with us in serving the growing needs of our Neighbors. You could run in our Annual Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day. Even if you are not a runner, you can still take part in the event by supporting someone who is running through our peer-to-peer fundraising that is new this year.
The Impact Report should be arriving in your mailbox any day now. You can continue the impact of GraceWorks in our community by using the attached response envelope to send in a gift or give online. Of course, in line with giving tradition, you will also receive our end of the year letter inviting you to support our work during this crucial time. It too highlights the food needs of our Neighbors.
Your generosity this season is much needed by us and much appreciated by those who we pass it on to. Thank you for the privilege of representing just how much you care about food insecurity and all its full impact right here in Tennessee!