When former East Ridge United Methodist Church pastor the Rev. Ken Sauer started a community food pantry in East Ridge with another church, they were serving 1,000 people within a year of the pantry's founding, he said.
Now the pastor of Red Bank United Methodist, Sauer plans to open another community food pantry in Red Bank with the help of other area churches and community volunteers. Other churches that currently plan to be involved are Mission Red Bank, The Journey Church, White Oak Baptist, St. Luke United Methodist, Red Bank Church of Christ and Red Bank Baptist, but Sauer expects many more to join in once the pantry is operating.
"There's a lot of people in this area who are food-insecure," he said, adding that more than 80% of students in Red Bank schools are eligible to receive free or reduced-price lunches.
According to 2017 Census estimates, 20% of Red Bank's 11,744 residents live below the poverty line, about 1.4 times more than in the greater metropolitan area.
The food pantry will be open to anyone who needs food, with no income or residency requirements and as few questions asked as possible, said Sauer.
"If somebody needs food, they need to be given food," he said. "We treat people with great respect and humility."
In his experience, the majority of people who utilize food pantries are not homeless. Sauer said he sees a lot of single moms with low-paying jobs who'd otherwise have to decide between paying rent or putting food on the table. Some are elderly people on fixed incomes who need expensive medications, or who are raising their grandchildren or great-grandchildren.
Like East Ridge, Red Bank does not have bus service, which can make it difficult for people in need of food who don't have reliable transportation to get to the food bank.
Two upcoming events will raise funds for the new Red Bank Community Food Pantry, which is expected to begin its operations out of Red Bank United Methodist by this fall.
A barbecue dinner provided by church member and Red Bank Family Diner owner Angie Hargis will be held at Red Bank City Park Wednesday, June 12 from 5:30-7:15 p.m. Donations will be collected for the meal service, with all proceeds going to the pantry.
Then, on Saturday, June 22 at 7:30 p.m., Red Bank Family Diner will host a fried catfish dinner fundraiser. All proceeds from the $10-per-plate cost will go to the pantry.
The food distributed by the pantry will initially be purchased from the Chattanooga Area Food Bank, and will include a box of staples such as mac and cheese as well as a meat and a selection of produce. The food bank will eventually connect the pantry with a local grocery store that will supply it with food that is not yet expired but the store can no longer sell, said Sauer.
Food will likely be distributed twice a month when operations begin, with the possibility for more frequent distribution depending on need.
Red Bank Family Diner is at 2601 Dayton Blvd. and Red Bank City Park is at 3859 Dayton Blvd. Donations can be made out to Red Bank United Methodist Church, with "Red Bank Community Food Pantry" in the memo line, and mailed to the church at 3800 Dayton Blvd., Chattanooga, TN 37415.
To volunteer, call the church at 877-2881.
Email Emily Crisman at firstname.lastname@example.org