The Chattanooga Area Food Bank has been serving the community for nearly 50 years. During this time they have provided millions of pounds of food across the 20 regions they serve in Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia. Director of Community Engagement Jennifer Lockwood Fritts says just this past year they have provided over 18 million pounds of food to those in need, resulting in about 15 million meals served. Their “Snack Pack Program” provides snacks to students throughout the school year and during the summer. Fritts says the packs are anywhere from three to five pounds and are full of food children like nutrition, and easy to make meals.
The food bank also operates a mobile pantry program where they bring food into communities, they also operate a produce empowerment program that delivers fresh protein to residents.
According to Fritts one of their most recognizable programs is the emergency food box program that provides food to families who are in critical need. The food bank also offers Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP, to help families purchase groceries at the store.
Often times the community will see a pop-up pantry from the food bank. But, how do they decide where to hold one? Fritts says they look for places that have enough room for them to set up since the mobile pantries serve anywhere from 250 to 500 families. In this process, they also look into communities that may be a food desert, low income, or are disproportionately affected by food insecurity. Fritz says the food bank will sometimes reach out to those community partners, but other times the community will reach out to them.
We really can't do it alone, you know, on either side. So we hope to be just as much of a service to our community partners, as they are to us just a hand in hand working together.”
The Food Bank’s mobile pantries are operated by churches, whether that is setting up in parking lots or offering a drive-through style where families can pull up and get their groceries.
As the non-profit collaborates with over 250 community partners, one of those is La Paz Chattanooga. They are the leading organization promoting inclusion of the Hispanic and Latinx community in Southeast Tennessee. The Food Bank works with La Paz so the organization can operate a food pantry, distribute emergency food boxes, or bring mobile pantries out into their own communities. This way, both nonprofits can reach even more families that need food assistance.
The Food Bank also provides to the community whenever tragedy strikes. They provide support agencies like the Red Cross when a tornado hits the Tennessee Valley. After the Red Cross stabilizes families, the food bank comes in and provides groceries. Fritts also says the Chattanooga Area Food Bank also works with their sister food banks in Tennessee and Georgia if they ever need assistance.
So how has the pandemic affected the need for food boxes? Fritts told me they have tripled their capacity to distribute emergency food boxes, meaning they have gone from providing around 30 to 40 food boxes per day to upwards of 150 at the height of the pandemic. The pandemic also took a toll on their volunteer base. The food bank lost 75% of its volunteers, which greatly impacted its ability to distribute food. They had to fill the gap with temporary workers, recruit volunteers from new places, and look for new distribution methods and vendors to access food.
To sign up to volunteer you can click here.
If you want to monetary donation click here.
Another way to get involved in your community is by hosting a virtual or traditional food drive, if you are interested in that or would like more information head to their website by clicking here.
If you or someone you know needs help with food click here, if you live in Hamilton County you can also call 211 and access the United Way to get a food voucher to receive an emergency food box.
Want to watch my interview with CHA Food Bank? You can find that link below!
My name is Jess and I love telling other peoples stories and bringing awareness to the community.