The Chattanooga Fire Department holds its annual food drive to benefit the Chattanooga Area Food Bank next week.
This is the sixth year for the big event, scheduled Monday through Sunday, Aug. 26, giving you seven days to go through your cabinets for donations.
The Food Bank desperately needs canned goods and other nonperishable foods to build up its reserves for the back-to-school rush and the upcoming holidays.
According to development director Holly Ashley, summer is the most demanding time of year at the Food Bank because staples from food drives held over the holidays run dry. The weeklong event spearheaded by Chattanooga firefighters couldn't come at a better time, she said.
The figures she cites are astonishing:
• More than 900,000 pounds of food are distributed monthly by the Chattanooga Area Food Bank.
• Last year, the facility distributed 11.9 million pounds of food.
• When Food Lion, a major contributor, closed last year, the Food Bank lost 200,000 pounds of annual food donations.
The good news, though, is that the Chattanooga Firefighters Food Drive has raised almost 35,500 pounds of food since it began six years ago, including 2,590 pounds last year.
Most desperately needed right now are jars of peanut butter; canned tuna and chicken; canned pastas; canned soups and stews. Cash is also much appreciated, as just $1 will buy 1 pound of food.
The event kicks off Monday morning in dramatic fashion in the parking lot next between CiCi's Pizza and the Dairy Queen on Highway 153. Just look for the two big ladder trucks with aerials raised and crossed.
"It should be quite visible," said Bruce Garner, fire department public information officer, adding that motorists won't even have to step foot out of their cars. They can simply hand the food off to a waiting firefighter.
After that, you can drop your donations of money and/or food off at any of the 19 fire stations in the city.
Garner said being able to help children headed back to school is important to the firefighters.
"When the Food Bank told us that they provide sack lunches for students who otherwise might miss a meal, we were totally committed to the cause," Garner said. "The Firefighter Food Drive helps the Food Bank get through the lean months."
Ashley said their efforts are much appreciated.
"Everyone loves our local firemen, but we at the Food Bank are especially grateful to our guys in uniform because of the tremendous support they show to the community," she said. "We know their day-to-day jobs are demanding, so we especially admire their dedication to the Food Bank and to feeding the hungry each year through the Firefighter Food Drive."
"Firefighters are very accustomed to helping people," Garner said. That's their chosen profession. A food drive is not as dramatic as carrying someone from a burning home, but providing food to struggling families in this area is no less important."
If you missed the FiveStar Food Fight at Chattanooga Market this past Sunday, you missed a great event. Matt Marcus, executive chef at Hennen's, took top honors, but congratulations are in order for a job well done to all the chefs who participated. If you'd like a taste of Marcus' culinary creations, visit Hennen's for lunch or dinner at 193 Chestnut St.