I am a voracious reader anyway, but during this pandemic my reading time has doubled. I am pretty sure my neighbors think I am either a shopaholic or way too close to our delivery man as my book orders have increased dramatically over the past weeks.

The additional at-home time has allowed me a greater allotment of reading space… kind of like when I am at the beach and read a book every day or so. I also read magazines, online articles, and a cereal box or two, if nothing else is around. But something I read the other day has really resonated with me. I read that American garbage disposals “eat” 30 percent more food than a lot of people in the world who are suffering from food insecurity (when social and/or economic issues prevent one from securing food). I was stunned by this quote!

The statement startled me, not because I am aware there are people who worry about where their next meal may come from, but because even though we as a country often waste a lot of food… I just had no clue what we dispose of is so staggering. I am not sure what it was about that particular description that garnered so much attention from me but it certainly did.

This 2020 pandemic has certainly increased the need for food assistance as millions of Americans have lost their jobs and children are out of schools. News photos of the cars and/or people lined up to receive food across the country has been mind blowing. One food distribution center out west had cars backed up for miles as people sought food for their families and themselves after being plunged into unemployment due to COVID-19.

We are incredibly fortunate here in Cumberland County to have great feeding programs such as the Board of Education’s cafeteria staff who continues to cook and provide meals each week for our county’s students; for Cumberland Good Samaritans and their food pantry; for Crossville Public Housing who works with Second Harvest to provide commodity distributions each week to residents; the backpack program in our school system which allows students to take food home over school breaks; the Crab Orchard Care Center; Roane State’s Food Pantry for its students; and to the many churches, civic organizations, and individuals who provide labor, money, or organizational skills to make sure our county is appropriately fed.

However, that is not always the case, other places, and this fact has always saddened me. But the mental image of a garbage disposal, an inanimate object, taking in more food than some people, is devastating to me. This should not happen, anywhere, but particularly in the United States.

One statistic I read indicates that more than a million kids go hungry in the summer when schools are closed. Again, not as much an issue here in Cumberland County thanks to our very effective Summer Feeding Program hosted by the Cumberland County BOE and administered by our cafeteria staff all over the county. But if that many children are going hungry in the summer, what has this pandemic done to them if they live in areas where programs such as ours are not in place?

This problem became even more apparent when I read that a young lady said her mom always sent her to as many birthday parties as she could… just so she could have more to eat.

It broke my heart to read that sentence.

If you want to help with a feeding program, you can do so by collecting non-perishable items and donating them to one of the local food pantries, assisting with a drive at a local church or civic organization, or designing your own unique way of helping. I just saw on television news where a young couple who were slated to be wed in the past few days decided to postpone their wedding and host a food drive on their original date. They called it “With this ring, you will be fed.” 

The couple asked that people do drive-by food donations for their local food program. They collected over 600 pounds of food to assist those in need during this incredibly trying time.

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It is Memorial Day weekend and the unofficial start to summer. This weekend would also normally include school closures for the summer and commencement exercises. It goes without saying those won’t be happening but hopefully locals will be out to grill out, camp out, fish, go boating and otherwise utilize the outdoors while social distancing. Remember, the banks, post office and other county, state and local government offices will be closed on Monday, May 25, in observance of the Memorial Day holiday. So, whatever your holiday weekend looks like this year… I hope it is safe and fun!