NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Summer feeding programs have started up around the Metro area, and the agency providing the meals is Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee.
According to Wendy Rake, Second Harvest Manager of Media and Communications, the food bank services 46 counties and 460 partner agencies across the Volunteer State. Partner agencies include food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, senior centers, group homes and youth enrichment programs.
Those youth enrichment programs include summer programs, where scores of children will receive free meals over the next two months through the Summer Food Service Program.
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According to Rake, Second Harvest has been partnering with Nashville area agencies to provide the food for various summer programs for more than 20 years.
“Second Harvest helps facilitate site locations and paperwork for numerous partner agencies,” she told News 2. “Our role is just to really facilitate these sites so that they can focus on giving the food out.”
According to Dream Streets Communications Director Miranda Telford, Second Harvest and Dream Streets have been working together to feed Nashville children for the last seven years. This summer will be the eighth year the two organizations have partnered.
“Second Harvest provides the hot meals that we cook on-site,” Telford said. “These meals are served at our physical locations or transported to mobile sites. We also receive snack bags that we send home with the children each day.”
The number of meals Second Harvest provides to local summer feeding programs varies depending on each individual site, but on average, the food bank helps prepare hundreds of meals each week for its partner locations.
“Most sites feed upwards of 30 kids per day,” Rake said.
Dream Streets sites served nearly 2,000 meals last summer alone, according to Telford.
“Last year we served 1,900 meals in June and July,” she told News 2. “This year we’d love to increase that to 3,000!”
Whether the agencies come by a warehouse and pick up their meals or have them delivered by Second Harvest staff and volunteers depends largely on the agencies themselves. Some prefer to pick up. Others prefer the delivery option.
No matter how they receive their food, each agency who receives a plate lunch will have their food packaged by Second Harvest in its fully functioning food manufacturing facility in Nashville. The summer meals are packed and prepared to follow specific nutritional guidelines, including a protein, a whole grain, fruit and more.
Even better, Rake said, the meals are all either defrost-and-serve or shelf stable, making it easier for partner agencies to serve them to the children in their programs or at their facilities.
This year the number of summer food locations is smaller than in previous years, but that does not mean the number of people who will need food assistance this summer.
“This year especially, a lot of our neighbors are still dealing with the financial fallout of the pandemic,” she said. “We’re seeing historic inflation and rising food and fuel prices. This is just one program to help individuals and families get access to the food that they need.”
Plenty of locations, like the Dream Streets Summer Days sites, are determined based on where mobile food sites already exist, according to Telford. For instance, she told News 2, the camp takes place at the physical locations, which are within walking distance or less than 2 miles away from most of its mobile food sites.
Running the program would not happen without the countless volunteers, Telford added.
“We had one paid staff employee who directs Summer Days, but this camp would not happen without volunteer support,” she said. “Local individuals and church groups and out-of-town and state groups help us operate eight weeks of programming. It takes 50 volunteers a week to run! We also have interns through Franklin Road Academy’s Turner Fellowship program who assist daily.”
While the meals this summer are for children, adults who face food insecurity can also receive assistance through Second Harvest, Rake said. Adults can visit www.secondharvestmidtn.org, click “Find Food” and search by ZIP code, county or even day of the week to find a food pantry near them.
To learn how to volunteer with Dream Streets, visit them online by clicking here.