published Friday, August 10th, 2012

Feed the Children's Americans Feeding Americans Caravan rolls into Chattanooga

Peggy Moore, right, carries bottled water to a car Thursday at the Crossing Church as volunteers distribute food and essentials to hundreds of families.
Peggy Moore, right, carries bottled water to a car Thursday at the Crossing Church as volunteers distribute food and essentials to hundreds of families.
Photo by Angela Lewis.

IF YOU GO

* What: Salvation Army Back to School Kick Off

* When: 5:30-7:30 p.m. Sunday.

* Where: Salvation Army, 1019 N. Moore Road.

* Information: Call 499-0216

Claudette Andrew's auburn hair dripped with sweat as she and others loaded boxes of water and groceries in the trunks of vehicles waiting in line.

By the end of Thursday at the Crossing Church on Standifer Gap Road, about 800 families had been given enough food to feed a family of four for a week. They also received items such as toilet paper, paper towels and household cleaning detergents.

Abby Chapman, 24, started cheering even before the food boxes were loaded into her sport utility vehicle.

"Thank you, Lord," she shouted, pumping her arms out the window.

The effort was sponsored by the national group Feed the Children, Crossing Church and several local social service organizations.

"We want people to know that somebody cares about them," said Chris Whitney, founder of the Nashville-based organization One Generation Away, which participated in Thursday's giveaway. "We really believe that, in this country, there is no reason for anyone to go hungry."

Feed the Children's 18-wheelers will stop in more than 60 cities this year as part of a nationwide effort called Americans Feeding Americans Caravan.

The nonprofit agency always has supplemented food banks with food distributions, said spokesman Mark Opgrande, but Americans Feeding Americans wants to deliver food directly into the communities of people who are hungry.

The agency, which has fed 390,000 families since the caravan started in 2009, used U.S. census data to determine the cities most in need of support, he said.

More than one in three children living in Chattanooga, or 36.1 percent, is considered impoverished. The number of impoverished children in Tennessee -- 377,066 -- could fill Finley Stadium more than 18 times, according to a Feed the Children news release.

Abby Chapman's father, Dirk, said he was grateful to get the food because he lives on a fixed income. But Abby Chapman said her praise wasn't about food -- she's been trying for years to get her father to church.

On Thursday, he came to Crossing Church to pick up food, and members of the church invited him to their worship service on Sunday.

While Feed the Children was the push that got the effort started, organizers say it was a network of volunteers from across the state responsible for its success.

In Chattanooga, the Chattanooga Community Kitchen, Newton Child Development Center and the Salvation Army were among the local agencies that told residents about Thursday's food giveaway.

People also came to the event by word of my mouth, said Dave Spear, a Feed America First board member and volunteer.

Whitney, of One Generation Away, was in charge of getting volunteers and securing the distribution location while Michael Clements, a sales representative with Sunbelt Rentals, provided a free forklift to unload the food boxes from the tractor-trailers.

While other volunteers placed food in their trunks, Crossing Church member Janie McDowell leaned her head inside car windows and prayed on the spot with families.

"We love you and we care about you," she said.

about Yolanda Putman...

Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...

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