Each month, over 300 families utilize the East Ridge Community Food Pantry operated by East Ridge Methodist Church on Prater Road, according to director Danny McDowell. By his estimates, that translates to around 550 children who don't have to go hungry each month.
But with a steady increase in the number of families requesting assistance, there are more still who don't have enough to eat.
Started in March 2015, the food pantry runs on a monthly budget of $2,800. Each family receives 35 pounds when they are served on the first and third Wednesdays of each month.
"Our mission is to provide help in a time of need," said McDowell. "Our vision is to expand our services."
East Ridge Mayor Brian Williams is listening. At the Oct. 10 city council meeting, Williams kicked off an East Ridge City Council Community Food Pantry Food Drive to raise awareness of the needs within the local community. He invites attendees of council meetings to donate nonperishable food or money to the food bank.
Admission to council meetings is not required to donate any goods or money, but he said he wanted to encourage participation in local government while also joining the community together in support of one another.
The new initiative is a starting point for a city council-led donation program, he said in a statement. Beginning in 2020, Williams plans to establish a rotating quarterly system to donate to various local organizations. The groups have not yet been announced, but he plans to start the formal program by the first meeting of next year.
"It's more important to start this food drive sooner than later," Williams said. "Just this year alone we have witnessed residents of this city displaced by fire and children being evacuated from dilapidated home environments."
Items donated at the meetings will immediately be taken to the food pantry, and in terms of monetary donations, a little can go a long way. The pantry buys most of its food from a food bank where $10 will buy 20 pounds of food, said McDowell.
Some items the food pantry is looking for are dried beans and rice, canned tuna or chicken, peanut butter, bread and soups.
"The little 16-ounce jar of peanut butter, we give out about 300 of those a month," McDowell said.
For more information about the East Ridge Community Food Pantry, contact McDowell at Jones Memorial by calling 423-624-6073.
Email Sabrina Bodon at email@example.com