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Love Thy Neighbor Project
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in...[and] The King said, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:35, 40)
The Love Thy Neighbor Project of the Center for Service and Leadership is dedicated to eliminating the barrier of food insecurity for individuals at Tennessee Wesleyan College, as well as throughout the surrounding Athens/McMinn area.
In the fall of 2013, the Love Thy Neighbor Project was developed and implemented by the Center for Service and Leadership staff and the AmeriCorps*VISTA member to address issues of food insecurity in our community. The development of this “umbrella” project led to the creation of two different programs: the Tennessee Wesleyan College Food Bank and the Back Sacks Program. The TWC Food Bank provides healthy, rescued food to eligible students on campus and also to impoverished individuals throughout the community. The Back Sacks Program is a weekend backpack program that provides food bags to local high school students who may not otherwise have access to food on the weekends and during holiday breaks.
Food insecurity is a horrific problem that affects not only individuals in underdeveloped countries but also people that live right here in our own community. According to Feeding America, hunger in America exists for over 50 million people. That is 1 in 6 of the U.S. population – including more than 1 in 5 children. Compared to all regions, the South continues to have the highest poverty rate among people in families living in rural areas (28.5%).
We tend to think of starvation as the images we see in UNICEF and Heifer International commercials, however, this is not generally the case in the United States. Food insecure citizens in rural communities like ours are often overweight, obese, and/or suffer from a variety of health concerns tied to poor nutrition. Many times, this is due to an inability to afford healthy food options, so these individuals are often forced to rely on low-cost fast food options full of calories, fat, and sodium. The Love Thy Neighbor Project works with parter agencies to provide healthy options to those served through the TWC Food Bank and the Back Sacks programs.