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Tennessee 4-Hers help families access healthy foods

Tennessee 4-Hers help families access healthy foods

One by one, the cars line up at the Clay County Fairgrounds, the center of courtesy for the day. As each vehicle rolls forward, volunteers move urgently – loading boxes of food.

The source is Second Harvest Food Bank in Nashville, which delivers donations to Celina, more than 100 miles away. But there’s also a local push to be a part of this, with UT Extension involved.

“Funding comes from our community. I know there are several churches that contribute to the funding to bring a semi-truck with food for the food drive,” said Haley Barnes.

“There’s a lot of people in our county that need it, and I think it’s really important to come out and help,” said Kendall Hamilton, one of the Clay County 4-Hers helping with the food distribution.

Inside this warehouse, the group fills boxes, bringing everyone a variety of healthy items. Then cars stop in front of the front door with young families and elderly people – of all ages, but regardless of whether someone is from this community, many are grateful for the children’s work and the food.

“I think you’re not only improving your community, but you’re learning how to teach others leadership by learning these roles of what they’re doing,” Brie McLaren said.

The 4-Hers help with this food drive three or four times a year. UT Extension leaders say everyone benefits here — the people who receive these kinds of donations and the 4-Hers who learn a valuable lesson.

UT Extension’s Kristen Rich is there with her 4-Hers, loading the boxes and sending the cars on their way. Rich wants kids to know that you don’t have to be rich or even old to help someone.

“Teenagers can make an impact,” says Rich. “We usually bring a dozen 4-Hers from the high school and they help us distribute food to the community. They make a huge impact in our community. We are all very grateful that our children came to help.”

One of those helpful young people is Erin Meadows. For her, this food distribution is typical of what she plans to do as an adult volunteer, and she encourages other children to think in this way.

“They can get involved early, so when they graduate and enter the adult world, they can come back and then they can donate their time or money or food to this, and just help the next generation,” says Meadows.

Within hours, more than 800 people were helped in this food drive.
In a few months, the cars will be back, as will Second Harvest and more 4-Hers.
Here, care equals impact – building a strong bond between these young people and their home community – all through effort.

A number of Clay County 4-Hers are also actively growing their own community gardens.

Charles Denney reports

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