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Love Thy Neighbor Project

Mission and History

The Love Thy Neighbor Project is dedicated to eliminating the barrier of food insecurity for individuals at Tennessee Wesleyan University, as well as throughout the surrounding Athens and McMinn County community.
In the fall of 2013, the Love Thy Neighbor Project was developed by the Center for Service and Leadership staff and an AmeriCorps VISTA member to address issues of food insecurity in McMinn County. In the last year, the TWU Campus Food Pantry served more than 2,000 clients, the Mobile Food Pantry provided food to 824 local households, and the Back Sacks program supplied 62 school-aged children with weekend meals for 38 weeks.

What is food insecurity?

An estimated 1 in 8 Americans experience food insecurity, equating to 42 million Americans including 13 million children. The USDA defines food insecurity as a state in which “consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year.” In other words, food insecurity can mean “struggling to avoid hunger,” “hungry, or at risk of hunger,” and “hungry, or faced by the threat of hunger.” Poverty and hunger are major issues in McMinn County, there is a 16.9% poverty rate for all ages, a 31.6% child poverty rate, and 13.6% of the population experiences food insecurity. Hunger is often associated with the images seen in UNICEF and Heifer International commercials, however, this generally is not what hunger looks like in the United States. Victims of food insecurity within rural communities frequently are overweight and/or suffer from a variety of health issues stemming from poor nutrition due to the inability to afford healthy food options. As a result, these individuals are often forced to rely on low-cost fast food options full of calories, fat, and sodium. The Love Thy Neighbor Project seeks to provide low-income individuals with healthy, fresh foods on a regular basis to alleviate the burden of food insecurity and encourage a healthy diet.

Campus Food Pantry

The TWU Campus Food Pantry is a client choice pantry. This means that individuals are able to “shop” our food selections like in a grocery store, which helps to eliminate wasted items. We do not prepackage boxes for distribution because we believe each household should have the right to choose their groceries. Clients can shop in the pantry twice a month and receive shelf-stable food, dairy items, and fresh produce. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please contact us at 423-746-5273.
The TWU Campus Food Pantry is an agency member of the Chattanooga Area Food Bank and part of the Feeding America network.

Mobile Food Pantry

Mobile Food Pantries are hosted at various locations throughout McMinn County to make them more accessible to the greater community. Mobile Food Pantries are set up like farmers’ markets, and eligible households are able to walk through and select the items they would like for their families. Each household leaves with approximately 75 pounds of fresh produce and shelf-stable items. These events are always free, courtesy of the Chattanooga Area Food Bank! For more information or to register for the Mobile Food Pantry, please contact us at 423-746-5232.

Back Sacks

The Back Sacks Program serves to eliminate food insecurity by providing weekend meals to students in need at McMinn County High School and Etowah City School. The weekend meals typically include a canned protein, vegetable, fruit, grain, juice or breakfast drink, and a few snacks.
The Love Thy Neighbor Project is working to expand this program both within McMinn County High School, Etowah City School and other schools in need. If you’re a parent of a student who needs a Back Sack, please contact us at 423-746-5273.

Get Involved!

The Love Thy Neighbor Project relies on the support of dedicated and hardworking volunteers to help us serve the McMinn County community. Volunteers do everything from assisting clients in the Campus Food Pantry, assembling and delivering Back Sacks, and distributing food at the Mobile Food Pantry. Volunteer opportunities are available on a weekly and monthly basis, making it easy to get involved! If you would like to get involved as a volunteer with the Love Thy Neighbor Project, contact us at 423-746-5231.

CONTACT US!

For more information regarding the Love Thy Neighbor Project or to volunteer, donate, or partner on a project, please contact us!

Gabe Treadway is serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA as the On-Site Operations Coordinator. Gabe works to oversee the TWU Campus Food Pantry and Back Sacks program.
• Email: gtreadway@tnwesleyan.edu
• Office Phone: 423-746-5273

Taylor Williams is serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA as the Off-Site Operations Coordinator. Taylor works to run the Mobile Food Pantry program.
• Email: tmwilliams@tnwesleyan.edu
• Office Phone: 423-746-5232

Kait Dorn is serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA as the Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator. Kait works to manage volunteers and expand community engagement.
• Email: kdorn@tnwesleyan.edu
• Office Phone 423-746-5231

Find us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/twulovethyneighbor!