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Need for programs that feed the hungry continues to grow here

By Lacy Hilliard
The need for programs that feed the hungry is growing both locally and nationally. Though the national unemployment rate has dropped and the economy is improving; many Johnson County residents aren’t yet feeling the relief – “It takes awhile to trickle down to Johnson County,” said Flo Bellamy of the Johnson County/Mountain City Community Center “even people that are working are still struggling,” she said.
Bellamy is one of the many local philanthropists that dedicate time to fulfilling one of the most basic human needs that far too often goes unfulfilled. Through Bellamy’s after school program at the community center, children can receive a hot meal and a snack five days per week. The meals are elaborate and nutritious and nothing goes to waste, “Leftovers are boxed up and sent home with the kids or to the Senior Center – I don’t believe in wasting food,” said Bellamy. Bellamy’s frugality is a necessity. Though there are a few food pantries throughout the county, each plight is the same –many mouths to feed and limited resources to complete this essential task.
St. Anthony’s of Padua in Mountain City operates one of the largest food pantries within the county. Leni Smith, a St. Anthony’s volunteer, stated that she continues to see a significant increase in the need for such services, “Three years ago we were feeding about 147 families per month. Now we’re feeding 450.” The cost to run St. Anthony’s alone is about $21,000 per year. Smith is also responsible for writing grants for Saint Anthony’s, “We’re fortunate to get grants,” said Smith, “but it’s a hard way to live because you never know exactly what’s coming.” Smith went on to say, “The need is growing but we assume that if we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing, the Lord will provide.”
First Christian Church in Mountain City also operates a food panty. Pastor Dwayne Dickson echoed the statements of Leni Smith stating, “The last couple of years we have seen an increase. We’ve gone up to about 200 food boxes per month. That’s about a 25% increase.” First Christian Church distributes 2-3,000 pounds of food per month throughout the county.
For the rest of the story, pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk.