In the News -

In the News

Weathersbee: Some kids here don't know what a peach looks like. Can this school pantry help change that?

By Tonya Weathersbee, The Commercial Appeal

It's no surprise that some Memphis youths don't know what a fresh peach looks like.

Chances are that's a lesson their parents can't afford.

That's because in a city with the nation's second highest child poverty rate, paying close to $2 for a pound of fresh peaches - which amounts to about two large or three medium peaches - doesn't make much economic sense when that money will buy two or three cans of diced peaches.

That reality, one that fuels the childhood obesity epidemic here, is apparently showing up in the pediatric obesity program at Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center and University of Tennessee Health Science Center that Dr. Joan Han operates.

Han and Nichole Reed, a dietitian who works with the program, recently told a State of the State's Health roundtable here that some kids here are so used to processed fruits and vegetables that they have trouble recognizing some of them in their natural form.

Yet Han and Reed's experiences underscore why the Mid-South Food Bank's newest food pantry opened in the right place for youths to learn what certain fruits and vegetables look like.

A school.

The food bank recently opened its first school food pantry in Shelby County at George Washington Carver College and Career Academy. The pantry, called the Healthy Food Pantry, not only will supply canned foods, but will distribute fresh produce and include a garden for growing vegetables.

Kroger will donate food to the pantry, which will be operated by youths in Project STAND, a Shelby County School juvenile justice re-entry program, and youths involved in the school's Building Blocks Mentoring Program.

"We have fresh produce here," said Stephon Smallwood, founder and president of the mentoring program. "We have a refrigerator here that's state of the art...we'll have all the pillars of the food groups.

"And we'll be serving a whole zip code, not just the school."

About that zip code: Nearly 45 percent of children in 38109 were living below poverty level in 2016, according to census data. Fourteen schools are also in that zip code, said Tarol Page Clements, Project STAND manager.

"We have a garden with field peas and okra out there, and we have options for storing fresh fruit," said Clements, who said the pantry, which will distribute food twice a week, should be able to help as many as 135 families.

The youths in Project STAND will also benefit from the work experience by getting a chance to earn certificates in warehouse management and customer service, Clements said.

But when you consider how poverty feeds obesity by denying many children the chance to learn what some fruits and vegetables look like, the pantry has the potential to provide something more enduring.

 It can provide the kind of education that can make them more conscious about their health; the kind that their parents would love to give to them but because their income forces them to prioritize convenience over health.

While the Healthy Food Pantry at Carver won't solve the structural issues behind  Shelby County's deep poverty, it will at least give poor parents and students access to the fresh food that they need to stop their health from becoming a casualty of that poverty.

And so that they can learn to recognize - and enjoy - more types of fruits that come off a tree and not just out of a can.

 

MLGW, TVA Unite To Help Mid-South Food Bank

from Local 24 TV

Employees with Memphis, Light, Gas, and Water spent Wednesday giving back. MLGW teamed up with TVA to lend a helping hand at the Mid-South Food Bank. Click on video here

Employees met at the Perkins warehouse on Knight Road where they sorted through food donations and packed boxes with canned goods to feed needy families.

Employees say they want to help communities thrive and spending their time and energy on service projects like this one is well worth it.

"We have customers here who are obviously struggling, and this gives us an opportunity to partner with TVA and actually volunteer our services and really just give back to the community and give a helping hand,” says Frank Fletcher with MLGW. "What we're going to be doing is going through packages foods, checking for dates, expiration. Really just helping them out in whatever capacity they need in order to give back."

"It is great to work with our partners like MLGW and it is wonderful to be in the community doing something where you know you're impacting somebody's life,” says Beth Parsons with EnergyRight Solutions TVA. "Service is a core value for TVA and employees. It is something that we live and everything that we do each day we come to work."

Each year, MLGW departments work to raise money for the Mid-South Food Bank.

They donated more than $37,000 last year.

Opinion | Fighting malnutrition, child obesity and 'food insecurity'

By Mark Norris and Keith Payet, guest columnists - The Commercial Appeal

Good nutrition is a huge part of good health; however, there are a number of barriers that prevent people from eating the nutritious foods that are vital for healthy living.

Many families don’t have the resources they need to ensure everyone in their home has enough to eat. This issue, called "food insecurity", affects 13 percent of U.S. households, according to the most recent America’s Health Rankings report from the United Health Foundation.

Tennessee’s food insecurity rate is higher than that national average, and in certain parts of our state -- like Shelby County -- it is even greater. Nearly 200,000 people in Shelby County, or more than 20 percent of residents, are food insecure, according to Feeding America.

Even when healthy food is an option, families may be more likely to choose less nutritious food such as fast food because it’s readily available, cheaper and requires little to no preparation. Over time, these choices can add up to serious health challenges.

Tennessee youth rank 50th for obesity, with more than a third of children considered overweight or obese, according to America’s Health Rankings. Obesity is linked to an increased risk for a number of health conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and certain types of cancer.

As a state and as a nation, we must do more to support good nutrition for everyone -- especially our children, for whom good nutrition is critical for proper growth, development and lifelong health.

It is encouraging that there are already many organizations addressing this issue.

Food banks across Tennessee have many effective programs for addressing food insecurity for children and families. Mid-South Food Bank in Memphis provides more than 2,000 children with backpacks filled with nutritious, child-friendly food to take home every weekend, and a pantry program that provides a monthly box of nutritious food to high-school-aged children and their families.

The United Health Foundation and Whole Kids Foundation recently announced $81,000 in grants to 39 Tennessee schools and youth organizations to build or expand existing vegetable gardens, salad bars or beehives, and provide educational resources about agriculture, caring for the environment and maintaining healthy lifestyles.

The grants were announced at Gestalt Community Schools' Nexus STEM Academy in Memphis, where children will participate in a garden club so they can pick which foods they want to plant and tend to the garden -- eventually harvesting their crops.

Master gardeners and a chef from the community will teach the children how to garden and how to prepare healthy meals from the foods they grow. Studies have shown that children are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables they have grown themselves.

These and similar efforts are essential to promoting better nutrition and increased access to healthy foods for children, families and all people in Tennessee. Hopefully, by keeping this issue top-of-mind and supporting the organizations that are making a difference, we can improve the health of everyone in our state.

Sen. Mark Norris (R-Collierville) is founder of the Tennessee Nutrition Caucus. Keith Payet is the CEO of UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Tennessee.

 

Seniors being hungry is a nationwide epidemic

from The National Council on Aging

Nearly one in every six seniors in America faces the threat of hunger and not being properly nourished. This applies to those who aren’t sure where their next meal is coming from and those who don’t have access to the healthiest possible food options. The issue is severe enough that the AARP reports that seniors face a healthcare bill of more than $130 billion every yeardue to medical issues stemming from senior hunger.

Senior hunger is an expansive issue that requires an understanding of exactly what constitutes a senior being “hungry,” the issues that stem from senior hunger, and how seniors who are hungry can be helped.

To understand the concept of seniors being hungry, you must understand what it means to be “food insecure.” When you are food insecure, it means that there is “limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways,” as defined by a study published in The Journal of Nutrition. Essentially, it means that you aren’t receiving and/or don’t have access to the necessary foods and nutrients to help sustain your life.

The concept of being “hungry” is a state-of-mind, meaning that there is a physical aspect to the lack of food. Attending to an area where people are hungry and basically starving is a much more immediate and severe problem to solve. Being food insecure, on the other hand, helps include people who may have enough food and don’t technically live consistently in hunger, but the food they are eating—usually in large amounts—isn’t up to nutritional and dietary standards.

To learn more visit: http://www.aginginplace.org/the-facts-behind-senior-hunger/

In Tupelo: Hunger Coalition announces summer feeding initiatives, makes major donation

By Cristina Carreon Daily Journal

TUPELO – The Hunger Coalition announced a new partnership and awarded a significant donation at a press conference Wednesday morning.

Coalition director Jason Martin announced a partnership with state-supported nonprofit Families First for Mississippi and presented a check of $25,000 to Mid-South Food Bank to support its Summer Backpack Program.

“Together we are pledging to raise awareness about food insecurity in Lee County and beyond. This summer we will start the work by providing food for eligible children in grades kindergarten through rising seventh-graders in Tupelo, Lee and Baldwyn,” Martin said.

The Coalition announced its three major partners at the meeting, which include Families First for Mississippi, United Way of Northeast Mississippi and the CREATE Foundation. Coalition leaders also introduced the organization’s 12-member board of directors, who are pledging together to feed 600 hungry children in Lee County this summer.

Martin, who was hired in early March of 2018, said he will work closely with Mid-South for the coalition’s Summer Backpack Program, as well as on other local feeding programs going forward.

“In most cases, throughout the school year these children receive food as part of the free and reduced lunch program and also participate in the backpack program that goes on during the school year,” Martin said. “The problem is during the summer they don’t receive either of those resources and go hungry.”

According to a recent press release from the Coalition, 19.2 percent of Lee County residents are food insecure.

Although Mid-South distributed 1,245,139 pounds of food to Lee County in 2015, it would take more than 3,000,000 pounds of food to fully meet the needs of low-income residents facing hunger.

“We will pool this money with other sources that we have, which will allow us to buy product by the truckload at a good price,” said Mid-South CEO Estelle Greer-Mayhew. “This collaboration in Lee County is an example. I hope that we can duplicate and share, not just here and in the other counties in Mississippi, but also in the Tennessee and Arkansas counties we serve.”

Next week will be the Coalition’s first major event since its formation in late 2016 – a major food packaging volunteer event at BancorpSouth Arena, where more than 300 people are expected to attend.

The Summer Backpack Program will run for nine weeks this summer from June 4 to the week of July 30.

Volunteers will put together 5,400 packages of food to be placed into the backpacks of students on a list of 600 children found to be food insecure in the area.

Organizers are encouraging private individuals as well as businesses, school groups and church youth groups to attend the volunteer meetup at BancorpSouth Arena Thursday May 31 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

To sign up or find more information about the volunteer event, visit https://bit.ly/2IP0Fmn.

 

Lionel Hollins, nonprofit director team up on new Overton Square restaurant

By Jacob Steimer Memphis Business Journal

Former Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins is teaming up with the director of a local nonprofit to bring a new restaurant — and novel concept — to Overton Square.

The restaurant will serve "Southern-inspired" fare in the former Schweinehaus space, and the owners plan to donate 2 percent of net food sales* to the Mid-South Food Bank. They estimate the restaurant will earn more than $30,000 for the nonprofit in its first year.

"I’ve been looking for something to do since I’ve been out of coaching, not knowing whether I’m going to get back in or not," Hollins said. "When you have something that, on one hand, makes money but, on the other hand, helps the community, it was a no-brainer."

The restaurant is the brain child of Edward Bogard, director of the Memphis-based shoe charity SoGiv, and will take his last name. The idea sprang from a partnership he forged with the food bank in 2014 to allow sales of a special SoGiv shoe to benefit the nonprofit.

"It was so fulfilling," Bogard said. "I wanted to do something like that on a more consistent basis."

Bogard knew Hollins from a partnership SoGiv had with Hollins' charity.

"It’s a perfect location. Midtown is blossoming," Hollins said.

And, Hollins hopes the restaurant's success shows other black entrepreneurs that they can be successful in Midtown — a part of town with few black-owned businesses.

Eventually, Bogard believes the restaurant will spread "all over the world," in part because it allows people to feel good about where they're eating and in part because of the great food it will serve.

As neither Bogard nor Hollins have restaurant experience, Ben McLean of Belly Acres and Tennessee Taco Co. is consulting on the project and designing the menu. Ed Cabigao of South of Beale and Zaka Bowl will be the general manager. The menu is set to include items such as fried green tomatoes, ribs, avocado toast and calamari.

The restaurant plans to capitalize each letter in BOGARD, as an acronym for Buying One Gives Another Rare Dish. Mid-South Food Bank communications manager Andrew Bell said he's excited for the novel concept to become reality.

"There are some businesses that continually or seasonally help the Food Bank," Bell said. "But, standardizing a part of the restaurant’s business model to financially support Mid-South Food Bank [year-round] is rather unique. An almost equally important aspect is creating exposure about food insecurity in a very popular entertainment district, where patrons are reminded of a serious problem in their community while they enjoy fine dining."

Hollins' son-in-law, Preston Butts, will be a minority owner in the restaurant. Loeb Realty Group's Barry Maynard represented Bogard, Hollins and Butts in the lease, which was signed Wednesday and is set for 10 years. Loeb Properties' Aaron Petree represented his company, which owns the building.

With as volatile as the restaurant industry is, Hollins said he knows the venture is risky, but he's not one to shy away from risk.

"Everything you have a passion for in life is risky," Hollins said. "Every time you go and take a big shot, the possibility of missing is there. [But,] the point is to try to win the game, not worry about losing it."

When asked if he plans on ever coaching in the NBA again, Hollins said it is still a hope of his but that he doesn't know if he'll receive the opportunity. Either way, he said he plans to maintain Memphis — where he's lived for 15 years — as his home town.

"Memphis is my home. Memphis is my passion," he said. "I love the direction it's going in. I'm excited to be here and call myself a Memphian."

*While 2 percent of net food sales will go to the food bank, 2 percent of net drink sales will be donated to clean water charities.

Weathersbee: Trump plan to give food packages to poor is about shaming them, not sustaining them

The Commercial Appeal

Recently, as President Trump and his minions were eyeing embarrassment as a cure for hunger, a lot of people were already enduring that.

By 8 a.m. this past Friday at North Frayser Community Center, a line of vehicles on two blocks of the street leading up to it — as well as an adjacent one — was at a standstill.

Some had waited for nearly three hours as volunteers for the Mid-South Food Bank piled tables with frozen blueberries, iceberg lettuce, Alaskan pollock, chicken, beef, apple juice and other foods to donate to people who know the month will last longer than their paycheck or their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.

Few wanted to talk to me. Many shooed me away before I even reached their vehicle. That’s likely because of the more than 200,000 people in this area who rely on food bank help, nearly half are in households where someone works.

That means they need free food — but they don’t want people they know they need it.

“One time, a lady was in line getting her food, and she looked up and saw all these red shirts coming,” recalled Estella Mayhue-Greer, president and CEO of the food bank.

“She said, ‘Oh Lord, these are my co-workers.’ The volunteers were from Walgreens, which was where this lady worked … she needed food because her kids were out of school for the summer, and she didn’t have enough for them.”

But those who did talk believed that Trump’s plans to replace some people’s SNAP benefits with a “Harvest Box,” dropped off at their door and filled with cheap peanut butter, cereals, pastas and staples, but no fresh foods, would deliver more shame than nutrition

That’s easy to see — considering that if they can come to a mobile food site to pick up foods, they can simply take it home as if they just arrived from the supermarket, as they do after they’ve purchased food with their SNAP cards.

A box delivered to their door would let the world know they’re getting government food.

That is, if the boxes even reached them at all.

“Due to housing problems in our area, families move around quite a bit,” said Rhonda Ferguson-Williams, a family advocate counselor for Shelby County’s Relative Caregiver Program. She came to pick up food for two grandparents caring for their grandchildren.

“What if you’ve moved? What if your box is stolen off your porch? What if you’re in a rural area that’s tough to get to physically?”

“I just don’t see how it’s going to be beneficial for our families, putting a box out for them... I see a lot of shame in that. It reminds me of the soup lines.”

“Right now, I’m taking care of eight children,” said Chandra Jones, who is also looking after the children of a sister struggling with a drug addiction. “I’m doing what I have to do to feed the kids…

“But this (food boxes)? Oh, my God…no.”

As it turns out, there may not be much to worry about there.

Administration officials are already saying that the idea of replacing half of SNAP recipients' cash benefits with a staples box has virtually no chance of becoming reality.

 Additionally, some lawmakers believe it is a distraction from the administration’s real purpose: To continue to slash billions from SNAP — which 67 percent of the food bank’s clients rely on — and make it harder for people to qualify for it.

That, in and of itself, would be a mistake.  

A recent report by The Hamilton Project, which examines economic policy for the Brookings Institution, found that SNAP has, among other things, helped people avoid health problems later in life associated with poor nutrition, helped children perform better in school and helped families weather financial crises.

Yet instead of working to create policies to help people get the nutrition they need to be healthy enough to work, to get an education and to ultimately climb out of poverty and dependency, the Trump administration’s answer is to float untested ideas that are rooted in distraction and shaming.

And that’s bad.

It’s bad because the last thing that people like the ones who were waiting in their cars, in 40-degree weather, for food in Frayser need is to be pawns for people who are intent on adding a heaping helping of stigmatization to their struggles.

Mobile pantries feed hundreds of families in Frayser and Orange Mound

By Jessica Gertler/WREG TV

Hundreds of families in Frayser stood in line Friday to get a box of food.

The Mid-South Food Bank started a mobile pantry in Frayser and Orange Mound using a MLK50 grant from the city.

"They had people lining up at 6:30 this morning," said Belynda Terry with the Mid-South Food Bank. "We are here to pump food into the community."

Hundreds of cars wrapped around the neighborhood for hours.

"21 thousand pounds of food just this location. 440 households," said Terry.

The city of Memphis passed out grant money for MLK50 to support programming and events honoring Dr. King's dream.

The Mid-South Food Bank was granted $7,500 to address poverty by launching the mobile food pantries for the next several months.

"Take care of each other. That's what we are here to do. Take care of each other," said Terry.

Weathersbee: This season, the Mid-South Food Bank will be bearing gifts in prettier packages

The Commercial Appeal

When Mid-South Food Bank volunteers deliver food to needy people this holiday season, the packages won’t arrive in tinfoil or tinsel.

They will, however, arrive in boxes that package dignity along with nutrition.

This past year, International Paper donated 250,000 custom corrugated boxes to deliver meals to more than 400,000 people in the Mid-South. While International Paper has been a major contributor in helping the food bank combat food insecurity in the region – among other things, it donated $1.25 million in 2016 to help it modernize and consolidate three warehouses and to improve its refrigeration capacity – the gift of the boxes is particularly special.

Estella Mayhue-Greer, president and CEO of Mid-South Food Bank, said that before the gift of the boxes, food was delivered in used boxes that not only cost too much, but often had labeling that didn’t reflect the contents.

Now, the new boxes bear the logos of International Paper and Mid-South Food Bank.

No confusion there.

“Before International Paper, we were paying 35 to 45 cents per box,” Mayhue-Greer said. “The boxes were used, and many times, they were mislabeled…we had a box labeled for beer going to a church…

“Imagine, a box labeled for beer going to a church.”

Tom Cleves, vice president of global citizenship for International Paper, said that because it makes one out of every three brown boxes in the nation, creating the boxes – as well as food boxes with handles for the youths who participate in the food bank’s Kids Café program – fit perfectly with its mission.

“We saw them using Budweiser boxes and used banana boxes,” Cleves said. “We didn’t want the food bank delivering food in liquor boxes, but we really didn’t want them to use dirty boxes.

Yet, while being able to deliver food in new boxes gives struggling people more of a sense of dignity in knowing that they aren’t getting food in boxes that weren’t intended for them, and that their esteem isn’t an afterthought, there’s another reason why the gift of the boxes matter.

They make it easier for the food bank to package nutritious food to poor people instead of food that just fills their bellies, Mayhue-Greer said.

“They’ve designed boxes specifically for us to deliver produce, protein products and entrees,” she said. “That helps us to help people eat healthier.”

And that’s important – if Memphis and Shelby County is to ever put a dent in its obesity and its food insecurity problem.

Because Memphis is the second fattest city in the U.S., there are those who doubt that nearly a quarter of Shelby County’s residents are worried about where their next meal will come from. After all, obesity isn’t exactly a symptom of starvation.

An elected official, in fact, once told Mayhue-Greer that because he saw obese people in line with food stamps, that they couldn’t possibly be concerned about hunger.

“He said, ‘They aren’t missing any meals,’” Mayhue-Greer recalled.

 But here’s the thing.

While obesity isn’t a symptom of starvation, it is a symptom of food insecurity – because what it means is that when people who struggle to buy food get it, they buy a lot of unhealthy and fattening foods that they can stretch to stave off hunger.

Also, when people have gone for a long time without food, or are unsure about when they will eat next, that fear will cause them to overeat.

Which leads to obesity – and other ills.

“In 40 percent of the households that we provide services to, people have high blood pressure and diabetes,” Mayhue-Greer said. “Those are diet-related issues, and those are food insecurity issues.”

That’s why, for some time, the food bank has been focused less on collecting canned goods and staples and more on providing produce, perishables and nutritious foods.  And that’s why this Christmas, it is especially grateful for the gift from International Paper.

To help needy people deal with their health as well as their hunger. And their dignity.

Hunger during the holidays

The Commercial Appeal

During the holidays, we look forward to big platters of turkey or ham, fancy side dishes, delicious desserts and plenty of leftovers. But such meals are a fantasy for thousands throughout the Mid-South. Food insecurity and hunger during the holidays is a cold fact of life.

Nearly 405,000 residents in Mid-South Food Bank's 31-county service area are food insecure, which means they do not have consistent access to adequate food for active, healthy lives.

Children, adults and seniors impacted by hunger may experience more frequent illness, slower recovery times and impaired ability to concentrate. Hunger takes an emotional toll as well, with increased levels of anxiety, depression and difficulties getting along with others.

The holiday season brings the need for supplemental nutrition into sharper focus. Winter school break can be a tough time for low-income families. Many children receive free or reduced-priced school meals for basic nutrition. Without those meals, it is a strain on the family budget.

Often, providing three meals a day for the children is impossible. Feeding America's research has shown many parents and grandparents skip meals to make sure their children have food to eat.

In addition, families cut back on portions, water down food and beverages and choose the cheapest, most filling food they can afford. It is a sad fact that the least expensive food available is often the most highly processed and least nutritious.

Mid-South Food Bank distributes more than a million pounds of food every month through our network of Partner Agencies, which include food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, youth programs, senior programs and more.

More than 80 percent of the food we distribute has high nutritional value, including fresh produce, meat and other protein products such as peanut butter, plus no-sodium canned vegetables and no-sugar canned fruit.

With everything we do and the hard work of dedicated volunteers at our agencies, we are still only serving half of the people in need in our service area.  

Our goal is to end hunger in the Mid-South. With the continued support of Mid-South Food Bank's many volunteers and donors, we will address the nutrition needs of all who face food insecurity in our 31-county service area.

The holidays make us more aware of food insecurity and hunger, but hunger doesn’t begin or end with the holidays. Hunger is a 12-month problem. 

Mid-South Food Bank is working year-round to change lives by eliminating hunger in the Mid-South.  With your help we can. 

Learn more about our work and how you can help at midsouthfoodbank.org.

Opinion: Collaborative approach strong way to fight hunger

The Daily Journal

A broad-based coalition took another step last week in its efforts to fight hunger in Lee County.

The Tupelo/Lee County Hunger Coalition was formed in August under the auspices of the CREATE Foundation’s Tupelo/Lee County Community Foundation and the United Way of Northeast Mississippi. It brings together various entities already working to fight hunger – food banks, nonprofits, churches, schools and government bodies.

The coalition’s idea is to serve as a hub between those groups so they can identify needs, share information and close gaps in coverage. Because, despite tremendous efforts by so many Lee County residents for so long, gaps do exist.

Data compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that 19 percent of Lee County residents suffer from some form of food insecurity. That amounts to roughly 16,270 individuals.

In 2015, the Memphis-based Mid-South Food Bank distributed 1,245,139 pounds of food in Lee County. But estimates by local leaders determined it would take more than 3,000,000 pounds of food to fully meet the community’s need.

And so the coalition seeks to identify the greatest needs and determine how to make the biggest impact with existing resources.

At a meeting last week, the discussion centered around plans for the agencies to coordinate their efforts, as reported by the Daily Journal’s Cristina Carreon.

For instance, CREATE Foundation President Mike Clayborne told the group he received a call last week from the Salvation Army that there was an excess of 400 pounds of crab meat that needed to be distributed quickly. Bargain Hunt had received an extra shipment, but like the Salvation Army, it didn’t know which organization to send it to.

Those are the sort of gaps the coalition hopes to close through communication and collaboration. Clayborne noted the current system is spotty and not comprehensive.

Meanwhile, United Way of Northeast Mississippi President Melinda Tidwell said the coalition has determined three main areas of need – food delivery, food pantries and school programs.

They want to steer local residents to give funds to local food pantries instead of donating food. That’s because food pantries can buy more food for the dollar.

And they want to explore programs that provide food to low-income school children while they’re not at school.

The coalition is the latest example of the community spirit that has long made Tupelo, Lee County and Northeast Mississippi rise above other locales. It’s an ethos that by bringing people and groups together to address a challenge, the impact can be greater.

Reducing hunger is an important goal for any community.

Lee County now has a stronger approach as it tries to do so.

TVA gives back through mobile food pantry

By John ward, monroe journal

AMORY – It was a trunk-or-treat in reverse on a spectacular Halloween day as volunteers from the Amory Food Pantry teamed up with Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) staff from Starkville and Tupelo and volunteers who took the day off for community service to unload groceries from a convoy of trucks from the Memphis-based Mid-South Food Bank in the parking lot of First United Methodist Church.

Tuesdays are the days for weekly distribution for the Amory Food Pantry, and the same effort was executed on an expanded scale for 400 pre-screened clients with vouchers.

“We thank TVA for their generosity,” said Amory Food Pantry Director Nancy Hoang. “Clients have a limited number of turns they can visit the pantry, and many are running out as we get towards the end of the year. The mobile pantry added an extra opportunity for families to receive food. This visit does not count against their annual allowance.”

The line of clients’ vehicles stretched for some three blocks beyond the church campus before winding their way through the parking lot to be loaded with food by the army of volunteers.

“Mid-South Food Bank provided the food while 

TVA provided the funding,” said food bank advocacy officer Fred Ashwill.

The challenge at hand was that the contents of the delivery trucks were not known in advance, so distribution logistics had to be worked out on the spot.

“The camaraderie of the TVA volunteers made it easy for us,” Hoang said. “Our group from the pantry is always like this – every Tuesday. We work together as a team. It was no different at the mobile pantry today.”

By mid-afternoon, food was loaded into more than 350 vehicles by at least 40 volunteers.

“It blesses me a lot to know that there are people that care for others,” said Jeanette Sorrells of Gattman, who was one of the recipients.

Former Memphis football standout Dontari Poe shows heart as big as body in food giveaway

By Ron Maxey, The Commercial Appeal

When Dontari Poe hits, you stay hit. After all, he's a big guy.

But no one was complaining Tuesday as Poe, a defensive tackle for the Atlanta Falcons and a former University of Memphis Tiger, hit them up with Thanksgiving turkeys and groceries.

Poe took a break from the NFL season to spend the day in Memphis handing out the food through his Poeman's Dream Foundation. The giveaway took place at The Healing Center in Oakhaven, not far from where Poe grew up in Whitehaven.

For Poe, it's a chance to give back to the community that enabled him to succeed.

"It's just a chance to feed a few families," Poe said as the giveaway was wrapping up Tuesday afternoon. "There's a lot of families in need."

Poe said he intends to make the giveaway an annual event. He worked through the Memphis Food Bank to coordinate it.

More: Chiefs' 346-pound DT Dontari Poe throws TD on 'Bloated Tebow Pass'

"Anytime we can serve more people in a particular area, it's always a tremendous plus," Andrew Bell, communications director for the Food Bank, said of Poe's contribution.

Bell said nearly 14,000 pounds of food was distributed Tuesday to area residents, a total of 200 households.

"It was all nutritious food," Bell said. 

Poe made a name for himself with his exceptional arm strength and lateral quickness. His performance in the NFL Scouting Combine even drew the attention of former President Barack Obama.

"They just had the Combine, and they were talking about some guy who's like 340 and runs a 4.8 and has a three-foot vertical," Obama said during an appearance on ESPN's B.S. Report with Bill Simmons. "I don't know what you do if a guy like that hits you."

Poe played for the U of M from 2009-2011 and was named a Conference USA All-Freshman Team Selection. He was drafted No.11 by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2012 after passing on his senior year at Memphis. In March this year, he signed a one-year contract with the Falcons.

Poe's weight is listed by ESPN at 346 pounds, but he just collected a $125,000 incentive from the Falcons for keeping his weight under 330.

Poe said he's just glad his career has given him the opportunity to help others in the place he got his start. And he's also glad to see the U of M doing so well on the football field this season:

"Oh man, they're doing amazing," Poe said with a smile while packing up.

Tupelo area coalition formed to address hunger

By CALEB BEDILLION DAILY JOURNAL

TUPELO – In the face of hunger, it’s all hands on deck.

A coalition of local non-profits and food banks have determined to band together, share information and seek to marshal greater resources to alleviate the persistent and pressing problem that many member of the community often do not have enough to eat.

Specifically, the CREATE Foundation’s Tupelo/Lee County Community Foundation and the United Way have fostered the creation of the Tupelo/Lee County Hunger Coalition.

This coalition intends to act as as a hub between local food banks, non-profits, churches, schools and government bodies.

“We want to act as a community core that brings everyone together so everyone does better,” said Dick White, chairman of the Tupelo/Lee County County Community Foundation.

White warned that despite lots of effort and attention from many different agencies, non-profit, and churches, “there are some big gaps in coverage.”

United Way Executive Director Melinda Tidwell underscored the extent of the issue by pointing to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics indicating that an estimated 19 percent of Lee County residents suffer from some form of food insecurity.

This insecurity often takes the form of a difficult choice between buying food or paying utility bills. It also includes children who may rely on food from schools and face meager meals at home in the evenings or on weekends.

The Tupelo/Lee County Hunger Coalition sponsored its first meeting of involved parties on Thursday morning.

Mike Clayborne, president of the CREATE Foundation, told the group that the Tupelo/Lee County Hunger Coalition can improve collaboration, produce efficiencies and unlock additional resources within the area.

Clayborne said the coalition's goals are to “elevate the understanding of where hunger exists” and to address issues of food distribution and supply among area food pantries.

Thursday’s gathering of community and non-profit leaders also heard from Estella Mayhue-Greer, president of the Mid-South Food Bank.

Based in Memphis, the Mid-South Food Bank distributes food to partner agencies and food pantries throughout north Mississippi, west Tennessee and east Arkansas.

She offered encouragement for a collaborative approach.

“Our mission is to change lives by eliminating hunger, but we can’t do it alone,” said Mayhue-Greer.

It’s an approach that Clayborne believes is particularly suited to the Lee County area with its strong history of civic-minded cooperation.

“There’s no question that when this community and county puts its mind to something, we’ll get it done,” he said.

Memphis especially vulnerable to food-stamp cuts

, USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee

Now that school's out and the kids are home, Pearlean Johnson notices her monthly food-stamp benefits don't last nearly as long.

"The refrigerator's like a play toy" for the kids, says Johnson, 38, a former certified nursing assistant who can no longer work because of a bone disease. "I'm gonna buy a lock."

Now that school's out and the kids are home, Pearlean Johnson notices her monthly food-stamp benefits don't last nearly as long.

"The refrigerator's like a play toy" for the kids, says Johnson, 38, a former certified nursing assistant who can no longer work because of a bone disease. "I'm gonna buy a lock."

Johnson lives in Orange Mound with a 15-year-old son and also has a 20-year-old son who frequently visits. She relies heavily on $324-a-month allotment from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program -- commonly known as food stamps -- even though the benefits often are exhausted after a few weeks.

Nearly one in five Memphis-area households share Johnson's struggles. According to 2015 census estimates -- the most recent available -- the nine-county Memphis metropolitan area has the highest percentage of households (18.7) receiving food stamps of any metro area in the nation with a population of at least 1 million. Only one other large metro area is even close -- Miami, with 18.2 percent -- while Buffalo, New York, Providence, Rhode Island, and Milwaukee round out the top five.

That means the Memphis area, where more than 92,000 households were receiving benefits in 2015, would be especially impacted by President Trump's proposed budget plan cutting $193 billion from the food-stamp program over the next 10 years.

It's a program that not only helps feed area residents but funnels tens of millions of dollars into the local economy every month.

Budget reverses recent trends

In releasing the fiscal blueprint in late May, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said the cuts to SNAP and Medicaid were part of a budget written "from the perspective of the people paying the taxes."

"We are no longer going to measure compassion by the number of people on those programs," he said. "We're going to measure compassion by the number of people we can get off those programs." 

Mulvaney added that some people would be required to work if they were going to continue receiving food stamps. "If you're on food stamps, and you're able-bodied, then we need you to go to work."

The Trump budget plan marks a sharp departure from policies and trends that had swelled the rolls of the food-stamp program in recent years. First it was the 2008 Farm Bill that boosted benefits, and then millions of people became eligible for food stamps in the wake of the Great Recession. Former President Barack Obama moved to further expand the program to help mitigate the tough economic conditions.

Between 2007 and 2013, the average number of recipients rose from 26.3 million to 47.6 million, with program's annual cost ballooning from $33 billion to nearly $80 billion. Last year, SNAP expenditures totaled less than $71 billion, and the average monthly benefit amounted to $125.50 per person.

SNAP's impact in metro Memphis

In metro Memphis, the number of households receiving SNAP benefits rose from 67,487, or 14.1 percent of the region's total, in 2007 to a peak of 97,138 (19.7 percent) in 2014.

Among the Memphis-area households getting food stamps in 2015, slightly over half had children under 18 years old, and more than 30 percent included at least one person 60 or more years old. Just over 19 percent were headed by married couples, while 47.1 percent were led by females with no spouse present.

The median income of households drawing benefits was $20,494, less than half the $48,524 median for the entire metro area.

In about 80 percent of the households getting food stamps, at least one person was employed.

A breakdown by Zip Codes shows that participation in the program is most heavily concentrated in parts of South Memphis and North Memphis. 

In the 38126 Zip Code, which extends from Beale south to McLemore, with Booker T. Washington High School near its center, nearly two-thirds of the 1,983 households drew SNAP benefits. In 38108, which covers a swath of North Memphis bisected by Chelsea, 53.1 percent of the 6,440 households got food stamps. 

Standing outside a market in 38126 area where he does occasional work, Demetrius Triplett, 51, said he and his brother rely on the $194 in monthly benefits they get from the SNAP program.

"We ain't going to make it if they cut food stamps," he said.

Across town, in his longtime grocery market on Chelsea, near the western edge of 38108, Mike Toarmina said only a small percentage of his customers use SNAP for their purchases.

Toarmina said the program is important, though, because of the large number of kids fed by on it. Still, he says, recipients often misuse the benefits by buying snacks.

"They get cold cuts, soft drinks. It's mostly junk...," Toarmina said. "It (the program) is not used the way they intended."

'Food insecurity' a local problem

Officials involved with food-related charities say the SNAP program is a vital part of the safety net for the Memphis area. In Shelby County alone, more than 202,000 people, or 21.6 percent of the population, are "food-insecure," meaning they at times lack access to enough food needed for an "active, healthy life" for all household members, according to a report by the group Feeding America.

MIFA, the Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association, has been issuing more than 11,000 food vouchers annually in recent years. Qualified recipients can redeem the vouchers at several of the food pantries supplied by the Mid-South Food Bank. There are limits on the number of vouchers each household can get.

Marcia Wells, director of communications and community relations for the Food Bank, said 60 percent of the people receiving food through a partner agency of the food bank are also SNAP recipients. They need the additional food, she said, because "those SNAP benefits are lasting only two to three weeks." 

If food-stamps are cut, as Trump proposes, demand for vouchers will increase and "our resources will be stretched even thinner," Wells said.

At St. Luke's United Methodist Church on Highland, where the University Cluster Food Pantry is housed, more people are coming to get food every year, said administrator Carolyn Galloway. She has no doubts about what would happen if food stamps are cut.

"That would greatly increase the number of people we get here," Galloway said

Johnson lives in Orange Mound with a 15-year-old son and also has a 20-year-old son who frequently visits. She relies heavily on $324-a-month allotment from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program -- commonly known as food stamps -- even though the benefits often are exhausted after a few weeks.

Nearly one in five Memphis-area households share Johnson's struggles. According to 2015 census estimates -- the most recent available -- the nine-county Memphis metropolitan area has the highest percentage of households (18.7) receiving food stamps of any metro area in the nation with a population of at least 1 million. Only one other large metro area is even close -- Miami, with 18.2 percent -- while Buffalo, New York, Providence, Rhode Island, and Milwaukee round out the top five.

That means the Memphis area, where more than 92,000 households were receiving benefits in 2015, would be especially impacted by President Trump's proposed budget plan cutting $193 billion from the food-stamp program over the next 10 years.

It's a program that not only helps feed area residents but funnels tens of millions of dollars into the local economy every month.

Budget reverses recent trends

In releasing the fiscal blueprint in late May, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said the cuts to SNAP and Medicaid were part of a budget written "from the perspective of the people paying the taxes."

"We are no longer going to measure compassion by the number of people on those programs," he said. "We're going to measure compassion by the number of people we can get off those programs." 

Mulvaney added that some people would be required to work if they were going to continue receiving food stamps. "If you're on food stamps, and you're able-bodied, then we need you to go to work."

The Trump budget plan marks a sharp departure from policies and trends that had swelled the rolls of the food-stamp program in recent years. First it was the 2008 Farm Bill that boosted benefits, and then millions of people became eligible for food stamps in the wake of the Great Recession. Former President Barack Obama moved to further expand the program to help mitigate the tough economic conditions.

Between 2007 and 2013, the average number of recipients rose from 26.3 million to 47.6 million, with program's annual cost ballooning from $33 billion to nearly $80 billion. Last year, SNAP expenditures totaled less than $71 billion, and the average monthly benefit amounted to $125.50 per person.

SNAP's impact in metro Memphis

In metro Memphis, the number of households receiving SNAP benefits rose from 67,487, or 14.1 percent of the region's total, in 2007 to a peak of 97,138 (19.7 percent) in 2014.

Among the Memphis-area households getting food stamps in 2015, slightly over half had children under 18 years old, and more than 30 percent included at least one person 60 or more years old. Just over 19 percent were headed by married couples, while 47.1 percent were led by females with no spouse present.

The median income of households drawing benefits was $20,494, less than half the $48,524 median for the entire metro area.

In about 80 percent of the households getting food stamps, at least one person was employed.

A breakdown by Zip Codes shows that participation in the program is most heavily concentrated in parts of South Memphis and North Memphis. 

In the 38126 Zip Code, which extends from Beale south to McLemore, with Booker T. Washington High School near its center, nearly two-thirds of the 1,983 households drew SNAP benefits. In 38108, which covers a swath of North Memphis bisected by Chelsea, 53.1 percent of the 6,440 households got food stamps. 

Standing outside a market in 38126 area where he does occasional work, Demetrius Triplett, 51, said he and his brother rely on the $194 in monthly benefits they get from the SNAP program.

"We ain't going to make it if they cut food stamps," he said.

Across town, in his longtime grocery market on Chelsea, near the western edge of 38108, Mike Toarmina said only a small percentage of his customers use SNAP for their purchases.

Toarmina said the program is important, though, because of the large number of kids fed by on it. Still, he says, recipients often misuse the benefits by buying snacks.

"They get cold cuts, soft drinks. It's mostly junk...," Toarmina said. "It (the program) is not used the way they intended."

'Food insecurity' a local problem

Officials involved with food-related charities say the SNAP program is a vital part of the safety net for the Memphis area. In Shelby County alone, more than 202,000 people, or 21.6 percent of the population, are "food-insecure," meaning they at times lack access to enough food needed for an "active, healthy life" for all household members, according to a report by the group Feeding America.

MIFA, the Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association, has been issuing more than 11,000 food vouchers annually in recent years. Qualified recipients can redeem the vouchers at several of the food pantries supplied by the Mid-South Food Bank. There are limits on the number of vouchers each household can get.

Marcia Wells, director of communications and community relations for the Food Bank, said 60 percent of the people receiving food through a partner agency of the food bank are also SNAP recipients. They need the additional food, she said, because "those SNAP benefits are lasting only two to three weeks." 

If food-stamps are cut, as Trump proposes, demand for vouchers will increase and "our resources will be stretched even thinner," Wells said.

At St. Luke's United Methodist Church on Highland, where the University Cluster Food Pantry is housed, more people are coming to get food every year, said administrator Carolyn Galloway. She has no doubts about what would happen if food stamps are cut.

"That would greatly increase the number of people we get here," Galloway said

Carroll County "Shoots Out" Hunger at Fundraiser

By Mandy Hrach, WBBJ-TV

But for some in Tennessee, going hungry is a real problem.

Shooters gathered Thursday afternoon at Carroll County Shooting Sports Park to not only test their skills but to help combat the issue.

“I definitely want to make sure people are fed,” shooter Hunter Phillips said. “I don’t want to see anybody starving.”

The Shooting Hunger fundraiser brought out hundreds to the shooting range, with all money raised benefiting the Mid-South Food bank and the Second Harvest Food Bank.

Organizers say more than 260 shooters came from all over for this event, but the real goal is to make sure no one goes hungry.

“Most of us don’t have to worry about where our next meal is coming from, but there are those in Tennessee that perhaps don’t,” Tennessee Farm Bureau President Jeff Aiken said.

Aiken said this is the first year for the fundraiser in West Tennessee.

“We have been hosting these events in Middle Tennessee, so this is kind of expansion into the west area,” he said.

Carroll County Mayor Kenny McBride says the goal is to raise $50,000, which in turn would feed more than 400 people.

“I don’t think we will have a hard time surpassing that,” he said. “They’re telling us we have more shooters here today than were in Nashville in the fall.”

And as for people in the agriculture business, Aiken said fighting hunger brings them together. “We’re in the business of growing food, and we want to see that food goes to those who need it the most.”

The next Shooting Hunger fundraiser will be held Sept. 28 in Nashville.

See video: http://www.wbbjtv.com/2017/06/08/carroll-county-shoots-hunger-fundraiser/

 

Feeding the Mid-South Need

By Jeremy Park, guest column in The Daily News

Last week we discussed the Jubilee Schools, which are educating children in urban areas of Memphis, affording opportunities for them to learn, grow and succeed in a faith-based environment regardless of their socioeconomic status. This week, let us spotlight an organization that is fighting hunger through the efficient collection and distribution of wholesome food, and through education and advocacy: Mid-South Food Bank.

Mid-South Food Bank is an independent, nondenominational nonprofit that was founded in 1981 with the vision of creating a hunger-free community. Their programs impact 200,000 individuals in 31 counties in West Tennessee, North Mississippi, and East Arkansas. More than one-third are children and 10 percent are seniors. All of them need food to meet basic nutrition needs, in order to lead healthy, productive lives.

Mid-South Food Bank has four primary hunger fighting programs: Hunger’s Hope, Feeding Children, Mobile Pantry and Disaster Relief. Hunger’s Hope distributes food and groceries through a network of 225 agencies with 332 feeding programs. These include food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, youth and senior programs, rehabilitation and residential centers. Last year, these agencies distributed 10.3 million pounds of food – the equivalent of 8 million meals.

Feeding Children addresses the nutritional needs of approximately 136,000 children. Last year, for example, 206,500 backpack meals were enjoyed by children who might not otherwise have had a nutritious meal to eat. Mobile Pantry provides truckloads of food for distribution in 20 rural and underserved counties. Mobile Pantry also provides fresh produce to youth and seniors, who live in inner-city food deserts. Disaster Relief is offered as a first response to supply emergency shelters with food when disaster strikes.

Helping the efforts of Mid-South Food Bank is easy and critical, as they currently face dire shortages. Coordinate or participate in a food drive. We have an LPBC food drive going on now and are asking businesses to place a box in their office where you and your team can contribute most-needed items. Most-needed items include canned meats (tuna, stews, chicken and dumplings, chili, Spam), soups, peanut butter, canned fruits, canned vegetables, canned 100 percent fruit juice, and any non-perishable items (no glass containers).

Collect these items at your office, then call Yuletide Office Solutions, which has graciously offered the services of their trucks and team, to schedule a pick-up time on Monday, April 30, or Monday, May 7. Sherry Favre is scheduling pick-ups and may be reached at 372-8588 or sherry@yuletideop.com.

Financial contributions are powerful, as every dollar donated translates to $4 worth of food, due to their partnerships. Take a tour of their facility or consider volunteering. Cast a daily Facebook vote at http://apps.facebook.com/walmartfighthunger/ (contest ends April 30) and Mid-South Food Bank could win $1 million to fight hunger. Learn more and help feed those in need by visiting www.midsouthfoodbank.org.

Jeremy Park, director of communications at Lipscomb Pitts Insurance and director of the Lipscomb Pitts Breakfast Club, can be reached at jeremyp@lpinsurance.com.

Effort to combat Mid-South hunger slate

by Robert Lee Long, DeSoto Times Tribune

When one hears the word "summit," the image of foreign leaders from many different countries converging on one spot comes to mind.

One of the most important summits in the Mid-South on one of the most important topics — the food we eat — is slated for April 26 at the Landers Center in Southaven.

The first-ever DeSoto Hunger Summit is open to nonprofits, churches, restaurants, farmers/growers and retailers. Registration for the summit gathering is this week.

Anna Dickerson, Director of Community Education for the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi, provided some startling statistics for food consumption and hunger in a region typically considered as affluent.

"It's estimated that 14.5 percent of DeSoto County residents know what it means to go without food regularly," Dickerson said. "Would you believe it if we said that 40 percent of the food produced in the United States never actually touches a plate?"

Dickerson said a group of entrepreneurs, nonprofits, food banks, growers and producers, among representatives of other organizations, will gather to share ideas and plan solutions to ending hunger for many individuals.

"Solving hunger is no stranger to many great organizations in DeSoto County and we applaud their efforts on a daily basis. In order to aid those organizations and others that want to further improve the food insecurity issue in DeSoto County, many leaders in the community have joined forces to present the first-ever DeSoto County Hunger Summit," Dickerson said.

One of those individuals who is eagerly awaiting the Hunger Summit is Austin Avery, the executive director of Fish-N-Loaves organization.

A computer engineer/technician by trade, Avery and his wife Laresia "Reesie" Avery wanted to help those individuals in need. With their home paid for and material possessions beyond measure, they wish to pass on some of those blessings to others.

The couple have recently purchased several acres in Marshall County to grow food for the greater Mid-South region and have a model to set up solar-powered aquaponics community gardens in selected communities across the area.

The aquaponics will be self-sustaining greenhouses which can produce more than six tons of food despite their relatives modest size and footprint.

"On April 26, we'll have a small unit demonstration of this," Avery recently told members of the Rotary Club of Hernando.

The key to solving hunger is providing access to healthy food, not the junk food and non-nutricious foods consumed by individuals mired in poverty.

The couple have begun assisting individuals in the historically underprivileged West End community of Hernando.

"Mississippi ranks No. 1 in lack of access to affordable, nutritious food," Avery said. "America has more than enough food to feed everyone. But our abundance is accompanied by tremendous waste. We have people who go hungry in Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee and the Mid-South. We have the food to feed them but it's not affordable and they don't have access to it. We've made a dent in food waste, and if we can turn it around and give it to someone who is hungry, then we have made a dent in food insecurity."

In early 2016, Avery and his wife bought an old school bus and converted it to solar power.

"We now deliver food directly to families in Hernando, Nesbit and Eudora the first of every month," Avery said. "Each week, we pick up food from local restaurants. It's not just giving food to everybody who asks for it. It is all validated. Right now, we also go to Walmart to get food to feed people who are hungry but we know long term that method is not sustainable."

Avery, a computer engineer with specialized skills, plans to "go live" online in May with a new program, the first of its kind in Mississippi, in which restaurants will be able to take pictures of food through a smart food portal to be picked up by volunteers and delivered to a hungry person in need.

To Avery, it's all about giving back to the community.

"We believe if we give our gifts to others, we can make something happen for the glory of God," Avery said.

The Hunger Summit event is free to attend, but registration is required. To register or for more information contact Anna Dickerson with the Community Foundation at adickerson@cfnm.org.

Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at rlong@desototimestribune.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 25

Mobile food pantry rolls in to Corinth

by Zack Steen, Daily Corinthian

Staff photo by L.A. Story Kala Marsh provides advice to Dacy Kate Marsh as they volunteer to assist putting food boxes together for the Mid-South Food Bank.

Fighting hunger ... a weeks’ worth of food at a time.

The Mid-South Food Bank’s Mobile Pantry was in Corinth this week distributing more than 1,500 meals to needy Crossroads area families.

Volunteers worked for several hours at the Church of the Crossroads on Friday morning where the Memphis-based food bank was setup to provide food to eligible, pre-screened families.

“The program is very effective in getting an additional weeks' worth of food to people who receive benefits such as SNAP,” Mid-South Food Bank Marketing Manager Andrew Bell told the Daily Corinthian. “Those food benefits run out in about 2 1/2 weeks so this food bank helps provide them with more food so they can use that extra money to pay the higher utility bills in the winter, for example.”

A $16,427 grant from the Caterpillar Foundation helped foot the bill for the latest food bank.

"Hunger is an issue in every community. Mid-South Food Bank is thankful to the Caterpillar Foundation for its commitment to fighting hunger and supporting children and families in need in Alcorn County,” said Estella Mayhue-Greer, president and CEO of Mid-South Food Bank.

Each year, 42 million people in the United States face hunger, including 17.6 percent of the population in Alcorn County.

The grant from Caterpillar will also distribute more than 90,000 pounds of food to 1,600 Alcorn residents through monthly Mobile Pantry food distributions hosted by Pinecrest Baptist Church. This provides direct delivery of fresh produce, frozen meat and other perishable and non-perishable foods to designated, underserved communities.

“The Caterpillar Foundation is committed to alleviating poverty in the communities in which we live and work,” said Michele Sullivan, president of the Caterpillar Foundation. “We are proud to partner with Mid-South Food Bank to support individuals in Alcorn County who may not know where their next meal will come from.”

The Caterpillar Foundation’s national investment will help 300,000 people facing hunger in Caterpillar communities in 44 counties. Caterpillar Foundation has helped provide more than 5 million meals to Caterpillar communities since 2015.

Mid-South Food Bank distributes more than 13 million pounds of food to over 200 Partner Agencies annually.

According to Bell, the next mobile pantry will take place on March 3.
 

Column: Memphis is giving community that is long on needs

By Tonya Weathersbee

The findings aren’t as surprising as they are revealing.

Memphis ranks third in the nation as the city with the the most residents who are in need, according to WalletHub, a personal finance website that regularly produces research and rankings on quality-of-life issues,.

Detroit ranks first, while Brownsville, Texas, ranks second.

That finding isn’t all that stunning, especially since up until last year, census data ranked Memphis as the nation’s poorest large metro area. It dropped to number two last year (behind Tucson, Arizona), when its poverty rate fell from 20.3 percent to 18.4 percent.

Yet WalletHub also found that the struggles of people here can’t be blamed on the stinginess of their neighbors – because when it comes to charitable giving, Memphians rank first for giving the largest percentage of their incomes to charity.

That isn’t surprising to Andrew Bell, communications manager for Mid-South Food Bank.

According to its annual report, 52 percent of its funding last year came from individuals, while another 22 percent came from corporations. The rest came from faith-based organizations, foundations, the government and program services.

“I think there’s a longstanding attitude in the region here of people wanting to help their neighbors,” Bell told me. “I think Memphians are very aware of the struggles and that we’re in the center of a lot of poverty, in the Delta region…

“I think people understand that a little bit of help goes a long way, and that we’re in the struggle together of lifting the community up.”

But individual lifting only goes so far.

Despite the generosity of food bank donors, WalletHub still ranked Memphis fourth among the top five cities in food insecurity, meaning that many people don’t always know where their next meal will come from.

That also doesn’t shock Bell.

“Food insecurity is in every zip code. You have a lot of people who are still struggling after the recession. They had a lot of financial strain and they’re still trying to catch up,” he said.

“I think there are a lot of factors involved…we distribute to a 31-county region, where there’s not a lot of grocery stores and not a lot of access to healthy food," Bell said. “That all carries over. When you’re hungry, you have a health problem. So when you have a family that’s eating cheap food, low nutritious food, and they’re struggling, they’re going to have health problems...

“That all trickles down, which means that you have to choose when it comes to paying necessary expenses, or having enough of the right kind of food not just to survive, but to live healthy and prosper.

Again, not surprising. But revealing.

It’s revealing in that it shows that poverty has many layers.

Most of all, it’s revealing in that it shows individual generosity cannot penetrate those layers; that even as big-hearted as some Memphians are, they still cannot donate on a large enough scale to replace programs such as food stamps and other assistance that assure poor people of at least some measure of stability.

Yet the idea that charities and the individuals who donate to them can replace much of the social safety net is an idea that lawmakers such as House Speaker Paul Ryan have been bullish on for some time – and one that will likely be used to further gut assistance programs.

But they’re wrong – and even some conservative scholars say they’re wrong.

For example, Arthur Brooks, president of the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute, explained the folly of that notion in Commentary Magazine in 2014. He wrote: “Consider the present total that Americans give annually to human-service organizations that assist the vulnerable. It comes to about $40 billion, according to Giving USA.

“Now suppose that we could spread that sum across the 48 million Americans receiving food assistance, with zero overhead and complete effectiveness. It would come to just $847 per person per year.

“Or take the incredible donation levels that followed Hurricane Katrina in 2011. The outpouring of contributions exceeded $3 billion, a record-setting figure that topped even the response to the attacks of September 11, 2001.

“But even this historic episode raised enough to offset only 3 percent of the costs the storm imposed on the devastated areas of Louisiana and Mississippi. Voluntary charity simply cannot get the job done on its own.”

This is important to remember during a time when some lawmakers are eyeing cuts to social programs through romanticizing about the virtues of American philanthropy.

And the example of Memphis – a place where generous hearts aren’t enough to fill deepening needs – is important to remember as well.

Bell knows this too.

“Right now, we’re feeding about half the people who are in need throughout the year, which is over 400,000 who are food insecure. So that tells you something.”

Indeed it does.

International Paper Strengthens Partnership With Mid-South Food Bank

By Don Wade

International Paper Co. presented the Mid-South Food Bank with a check for $1.25 million in support of its signature charity last week and the timing was excellent because, well, there is never not a good time for the Food Bank to receive that kind of generous help.

“Food insecurity is a real issue across the Mid-South and International Paper has the products, the resources and the desire to assist us,” said Estella Mayhue-Greer, president and CEO of Mid-South Food Bank. “We cannot thank them enough.”

But the gift also served as a reminder that even generous donations do not provide an ultimate solution. Consider the Food Bank’s backpack program for school children and Thanksgiving week. The need for food at home grows because there are more days the children are not being fed breakfast and lunch at school.

And every day, Mid-South Food Bank has a large area to serve: 31 counties in West Tennessee, North Mississippi and East Arkansas, where more than 21 percent of the population struggles with food insecurity and hunger.

Annually, the Food Bank distributes from 12 million to 15 million pounds of food. That’s a lot, but Mayhue-Greer says they need to be distributing more like 25 million pounds. They currently reach about 220,000 people in those 31 counties, but about twice that number have food shortages.

“Food-banking has changed,” she said. “We’re more intentional about making sure we’re meeting nutritional needs.”

About 40 percent of the people receiving assistance have diabetes, high blood pressure, or both, she said. While food drives long have been a staple in the industry, there is shift away from that because people donating canned goods will clean out their pantries with little respect to the nutritional content of the food being donated or the expiration dates.

When that food comes in, volunteers have to sort it to make sure it is suitable to be distributed.

“The University of Memphis analyzes our backpack program, makes sure we’re meeting the nutritional needs of children,” Mayhue-Greer said. “So not everything that comes in the door goes out. And when we have to dump (food), we have to pay a fee.”

Currently, the Food Bank is operating at out of three warehouses that cover about 100,000 square feet. The IP donation will allow the Food Bank to consolidate into one 227,000-square-foot warehouse that was purchased in 2013.

“We had an opportunity to get that building at a good price,” Mayhue-Greer said, adding that it will take time to make the shift from the existing warehouses into just one. “We’re still in that process. One of the things International Paper has said is when we make that transition, they want to have engineers go in to make sure we can operate effectively and efficiently in that facility.”

The $1.25 million donation follows a strong and growing relationship between IP and the Food Bank. Previously, IP has participated in Operation Feed – the annual food and funds drive among area companies – and had more than 100 of its employees volunteer to work in the Food Bank warehouses.

International Paper also made a donation of more than $80,000 from a golf tournament and came to the Food Bank’s rescue when a freezer broke down this year and needed to be repaired; that cost was $20,000.

Now, IP has taken a bigger step by making the Mid-South Food Bank its signature charity and providing the funds to consolidate the collection and distribution process that is central to fighting hunger.

“The foundation of IP’s revised philanthropy strategy is to mobilize our people, products and resources to address the critical needs in the communities where employees live and work,” said Mark Sutton, chairman and CEO. “We have selected fighting hunger as one of our signature causes.”

It’s a cause that will always need fighting. Mayhue-Greer points out that it’s not just the unemployed that go hungry, but the underemployed.

“When you have a household used to two full-time incomes get cut down to two part-time incomes, you’re going to struggle to make ends meet. Might have to choose between paying the mortgage, the utility bill, and buying food,” she said. “Seniors might have to decide between paying rent, paying for a prescription, or buying food. Those are tough choices.”

Gift helps food bank fill hunger, health needs          

By Tonya Weathersbee, The Commercial Appeal

This food was supposed to fill bellies. But instead, it wound up filling up garbage bins.
“We (recently) lost a whole freezer full of protein products and meats,” Estella Mayhue-Greer, president and CEO of Mid-South Food Bank, told me.
“All of that went bad, and we also had to pay fees to dump it.”
That happened, Mayhue-Greer said, because the food bank is operating with freezers that are too antiquated to accommodate donations of perishable products that it is now trying to dis-tribute to the thousands of people in 31 Mid-South counties who struggle to find enough food to eat.
Which is why she’s especially grateful for the early holiday gift it will receive from International Paper Co.
According to The Commercial Appeal, that company is poised to donate $1.25 million to the food bank on Wednesday.
“We have selected fighting hunger as one of our signature causes and will partner with Mid-South Food Bank to address hunger in the greatest Memphis area,” International Paper chair-man Mark Sutton recently said in a press release.
No doubt, that’s always a good cause.
Yet that money won’t be used to buy more food, but rather, to ensure that the groceries that the food bank has won’t go bad – and to streamline distri-bution so that it ultimately winds up going to most of the people who need it, Mayhue-Greer said.
“We have a freezer that we refer to as a World War II freezer because it is so old,” Mayhue-Greer said. “We’ve had to rent freezers to store produce.”
Another good thing about the gift from International Paper: It helps the Mid-South Food Bank continue on a mission to not only relieve people’s hunger pangs, but to expose them to better nutrition through providing fresh meats, fruits and vegetables.
“Food banking has changed,” said Mayhue-Greer, who also said that while more than 423,000 people in the region are grappling with food insecurity, the food bank struggles to reach more than half of them.
“Refrigeration and freezer space is important, because fresh food is more nu-tritious,” she said. “That’s why we’re moving away from food drives and hav-ing fund drives instead, so that we can buy produce and perishable foods.
“We’re doing this because many of the people in the households that we serve have high incidents of diabetes and high blood pressure, and they need fresh food.”
Yet while the $1.25 million gift from International Paper to the Mid-South Food Bank is a triumph, the area still has lots of work to do when it comes to tamping down hunger and food insecurity among its most vulnerable citizens.
According to a 2015 report by the Food Research Action Center, the food hardship rate for the Memphis area was at 22.7 percent. That makes it eighth among 18 metropolitan areas for having the highest rates of food insecurity.
The predicaments fueling hunger in Memphis are similar to the predicaments fueling hunger and food insecurity across the nation. Families and house-holds – even those receiving food stamps and other assistance – still don’t have enough resources to make their food last through the end of the month. Too many are working minimum wage or part-time jobs that often force them to make tough choices.
Do they fill their gas tanks?
Do they fill their prescriptions?
Or do they fill their stomachs?
The good thing is that organizations like Mid-South Food Bank, and donors such as International Paper Co., are working to make those choices easier for struggling individuals and families. And they’re doing it not just by focusing on keeping them fed, but on keeping them healthy with fresh food.
What that shows is that while it remains a tragedy that scores of working people have to rely on charity to meet a basic need, the victory, at least here, is that those who are helping them are focusing on their long-term nutritional needs.
By doing so, they’re seeing them through the lens of their dignity, and not just their neediness.
And that’s always good.

Food bank grocery program fills local freezers and bellies

By Jennifer Biggs of The Commercial Appeal

Lonzo Smith slipped his big hands into a pair of latex gloves to carry full-size chafing dishes from the kitchen of the Memphis Union Mission to the all-purpose room, used for dining and for worship. The 200 or so men gathered for dinner came as they were called, by rows, to pick up a plate generously filled with smothered pork chops, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables, corn pudding and bread. When they were served, seconds were offered. And there was dessert for everyone.

Until a few months ago, Smith was the manager of a fast-food restaurant in the suburbs. After his fourth heart attack, his doctor said no more — he had to quit working. With no financial reserve, he lived for a short time with his brother and then spent a week on the street before finding his way to the Mission, where he lives — and eats — while he holds hope that his disability status will be approved.

Smith, 54, is one of nearly 420,000 food-insecure residents of the 31-county area served by the Mid-South Food Bank. The area extends north to the Kentucky border, west to take in Crittenden County in Arkansas, east to Tishomingo County in Mississippi and south two counties to Monroe. National donations, mostly through Feeding America, make up 50 percent of food donated to the Mid-South Food Bank, which distributes about 15 million pounds of food annually; the retail store donation program brings in about 5 million pounds, or one-third, of that. In November, the 115 participating groceries provided 458,856 pounds of food.

"That might be a big number, but there is so much more out there to capture," said Janet Benford, the program coordinator.

In 1996, the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Law paved the way for grocery stores to donate food to agencies by offering the donor and the agencies liability protection as long as they act in good faith. This opened the door for perishable foods to go to agencies, greatly changing the canned goods donation that had been the standard. And while the food bank was able to gather perishables from groceries before then, it was in 2013 that the retail store donation program was officially founded.

The program has greatly elevated giving: In the fiscal year that ended in June, nearly 5 million pounds of food was collected and distributed. The program coordinates with partner agencies, such as Memphis Union Mission, so that their drivers can pick up from groceries daily. Additionally, three dedicated drivers have daily routes, each going to 12 to 15 stores. Those drivers, who work for the food bank, inspect the food at the site, then deliver it to the food-bank warehouse on Heistan Place, where everything is weighed and sorted for distribution.

Driver Bobby Womack's route includes stores in the suburbs, such as Sprouts, Super Target and Kroger at Houston Levee and Macon roads, and includes a daily pickup at The Fresh Market in Midtown. He's prepared for whatever he might get.

"You just never know. Sometimes I go to The Fresh Market and it might be two or three tubs of bakery items and sometimes it might be 10 or 12 tubs and include all kinds of things," he said.

Strict attention is paid to food-safety guidelines. Meat is frozen when picked up, goes to a refrigerated truck and then to a freezer for storage in the warehouse. Often meat is held in the freezer until there's enough of one thing to feed a large group. Other perishable items, such as fruit and vegetables and bakery items, are frequently consumed the day they're picked up. Kids' Cafe, a joint program between the food bank and the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Memphis that provides 56,000 hot meals annually in three after-school programs, "shops" from the grocery-donated items.

Womack works the store when he makes a pickup.

"I go in and check with all the departments, because maybe they have something they haven't thought about until they see me," he said.

All the food donated is in date, though most perishables are nearing expiration. But other times, a store might donate food because too much was ordered, or the packaging is out of date; this was a big year for Halloween candy.

Sam's Club, Walmart, Super Target, SuperLo and Kroger are among the local donors; most of the food served to Smith and the other men at Memphis Union Mission was picked up at Kroger just hours before it was prepared. Kroger public affairs manager Teresa Dickerson said perishable donation began at the corporate level about 10 years ago, starting with Fred Meyer stores.

"We donate about 50 million pounds of perishable food annually through Feeding America," she said. "I'd say 99.9 percent of Kroger stores across the country participate."

Before the Good Samaritan Act?

"Even though we knew it was good food, most of it went in the trash," said Robert Hanrahan, food safety manager for Kroger Delta. "Last year we donated 2.7 million pounds of perishables in this region. In the old days, most of that would have been trash."

This spring France adopted a bill banning grocery stores from throwing away food. Food that is safe to eat must be donated to agencies that feed needy people; food that is not safe for humans to consume will go to farmers for animal food or for compost when the law takes effect in July.

For folks like Smith, shelter and sustenance is not something to take for granted. Food that would have ended up in a landfill is feeding him during a hard time in his life.

"I consider myself homeless even though I live here, because I've always had my own place," he said. "But I'm grateful I'm here. I'm safe and I get three good meals a day. It's hot and they give us plenty."