Katie Renner of the Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee and four other representatives of nutrition and advocacy agencies described their programs at a Food Insecurity Forum in Pegram recently.
Renner was joined by Ann Carty and Melanie Smiley from The Ark and its Meals on Wheels program, Jeanna Newton from FUEL of Cheatham County and Sarah Henson of the Tennessee Justice Center.
Renner told the small gathering at the forum, sponsored by the Cheatham County Democrats at the Pegram Community Club, that 10 percent of Cheatham County’s 40,000 residents and 17 percent of its children still must confront the problem of food insecurity (meaning inconsistent access to adequate nutrition).
In addition to poverty, other obstacles mentioned were transportation to a suitable food store, the cost of gasoline and car repairs, parents’ work schedules, child-care obligations, and inability to find or apply for assistance.
Eventually, though, Carty said, “we don’t want (to have) hungry folks.”
Among the programs described by the panelists were the Ark’s weekly food pantry, where people can shop for themselves in lieu of pre-packaged boxes; Meals on Wheels, whose drivers deliver hot and cold meals three times a week to those isolated by age or disability while also making safety checks and providing much-needed human interaction; and “FUEL” backpacks of ready-to-eat foods sent home with children from school for weekends (and sometimes dinner) when a need is identified.
There was agreement that one of the greatest nutrition needs was for summer meal programs when most schools are closed and school breakfasts, lunches, and take-home meals are not available. Federal funds are available for such programs through the schools, non-profits, or other agencies, but these meals must be provided at specific summer food sites to which transportation is needed.
According to Henson, Cheatham County is one of only three counties in the state that had no such funded program last summer.
The non-partisan public forum on food insecurity was the fourth such program organized by the Cheatham County Democrats, the others being school and school-bus safety, expansion of rural internet service and medical marijuana. Suggestions for future topics can be sent to Roger Marriott (email@example.com) or Randy Fiedler (firstname.lastname@example.org).