By Meg Dickens
The COVID-19 pandemic has been increasingly prevalent in recent times. According to multiple sources, Tennessee has the highest number of infections per capita in the United States. Related risks have caused the Upper East Tennessee Human Development Agency (UETHDA) to cancel commodity distribution in this area for January 2021. While commodity distribution will not be happening, there are many resources in the area for those in need.
The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), commonly known as commodities, is a federal program “that helps supplement the diets of low-income Americans, including elderly people, by providing them with emergency food and nutrition assistance at no cost.” Although COVID-19 issues have affected this type of assistance, it has not crippled help from the Bible Belt.
Johnson County churches house help through charitable donations, mostly of food or clothing. Most of these establishments have preset days and hours or offer assistance during appointments. Participating churches include but are not limited to Bethany Baptist Church, Mountain City Seventh Day Adventist Church, First Baptist Church, and Mountain City Presbyterian Church. Addresses and phone numbers for these churches are available in The Tomahawk’s weekly church directory.
Another form of help is food banks. One of the most well-known is the Second Harvest Food Bank, which is part of the nationwide food bank network Feeding America. Second Harvest partnered with Johnson County Schools as recently as December 18, 2020.
In response to unhappy comments about the canceled commodities, UETHDA Executive Director Tim Jaynes explained that “staff has been hit hard by COVID-19 and are struggling. We feel this is the best for this time for multiple reasons.” He also explained that partners offer food throughout the region, and UETHDA has emergency food boxes at their offices for those in dire need.
UETHDA Officials suggest that those in need contact their local Neighborhood Service Center for assistance. Johnson County’s office is located at 110 Pioneer Village Drive in Mountain City. Contact this office at (423) 727-6633.