20th Annual Hunger Hike Helps Get Food to Those in Need

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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20th Annual Hunger Hike Helps Get Food to Those in Need

Posted: 09/28/2010
Food pantries are always in need of financial resources to keep their shelves stocked. That's why the Hunger Hike is such an important annual event: it benefits churches and pantries which provide food to hungry people in Knox County.

Emergency Food Helpers (EFH) is a network of pantries working together to coordinate food assistance programs. Second Harvest Food Bank, a member of EFH, is a major food supplier for pantries, but does not distribute food directly to individuals. All of the funds raised at the Hunger Hike are distributed to participating pantries, according to the designation of each hiker.

The 2.25-mile Hunger Hike will be held on Sunday, October 3, 2010, starting at the TVA Pavilion at Lakeshore Park in Knoxville.

Registration begins at 2 p.m. and the Hike will commence at 2:30 p.m.

With a $15 donation to the food pantry of your choice, entrants will receive a Hunger Hike t-shirt while supplies last.

Food Needs in Our Community

More than 80,312 people in Knox County and 256,684 in East Tennessee are at risk of going hungry. From June 2009 to July 2010, Second Harvest distributed nearly 16 million pounds of food to its 18 county region. More than 11,782,905 meals last year were provided to hungry people, but Second Harvest estimates this meets just one-fourth of the total need to eliminate hunger in East Tennessee.

The 61,000 residents, or 13.80 percent of Knox County's population, who live below the poverty level have sought emergency food assistance either on a short-term or long-term basis. In 2009-2010, Second Harvest delivered more than 837,000 meals a month through 517 food provider agencies to more than 161,000 children, adults and seniors in the 18 counties of East Tennessee, including Knox County. Many are first-time, middle-income families who previously donated to food banks and are scared or embarrassed to be requesting food.

In 2007, there was an eight percent increase in the number of pantries applying for the Federal Emergency Food and Shelter program food portion. In 2008, the number of pantries applying rose by another 8 percent. In addition, the pantries are reporting difficulty in keeping their shelves stocked. The distribution of emergency food is a significant factor in decreasing and preventing the risk of homelessness, since many people have to choose between buying food and paying other expenses. A strong emergency food system supports low-income working families in getting the food they need and using their limited funds for rent, utilities or other critical family expenses.

The cost of food is a significant issue for low-income families. In a 2008 survey of community gardeners, 57 percent of the respondents said they gardened because it saved them money on food; 63 percent of the gardeners selected "cheaper food" as the most important factor in buying food, much more important than where the store was located (14 percent) or how they would get to it (12 percent).

Food stamp usage has increased substantially in the State and in Knox County over the past five years, reversing a trend started by welfare reform and contradicting the census data that showed a decline in poverty from 1990 to 2000. Statewide figures indicate a 29 percent increase in Food Stamp participation from Fiscal Years 2002 to 2007, from 284,291 to 400,715. The increase in Knox County has been almost the same (28.3 percent) as the statewide increase. It seems reasonable to assume that economic downturns drive more families to seek food assistance from the government, as well as increasing their dependence on private charities.

Hardships created by economic recession and low wages for many jobs in this area combine to create the risk of hunger for many individuals and their families. This is the challenge faced by Emergency Food Helpers and the Hunger Hike.