Food drive aims to make sure homeless have fresh produce
More than 4,000 people experience homelessness each year in Chattanooga, many do not know where their next meal will come from. A local food drive hopes to make sure more people are fed with nutritious foods.
A group of young professionals are making a difference in Chattanooga's homeless population. The group is called Echelon, they created an online sign-up to make sure the homeless community has fresh produce year round.
You have heard of canned food drives, but this one is a little different.
"Chattanoogans are so generous to our homeless neighbors. The challenge is some of the food we're donating is food stable," said Karen Sherrill, the Salvation Army.
There's only so many nutrients you can get from something packaged in a can, and while these types of foods are important, a Lieutenant at the Salvation Army noticed some homeless face malnourishment, sometimes to the point of scurvy.
"We want them to have fresh fruit and vegetables, that Vitamin C, we need for our bodies," Sherrill said.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are rarely donated.
"It's understandable that people would give food that has a longer shelf life, but our homeless neighbors also need fresh fruit and vegetables in order to thrive," said Tripp Thurston, president of Echelon. "Our community has always been generous to help with food drives, but this problem is more than hunger," he added.
A lack of nutrients can cause hair loss, gum disease and skin problems. It's why people at the recreate cafe said the food makes all the difference.
"Keep them going strong, it takes a lot off their mind when they can walk up and get a nice fruit, orange tangerine, and banana," said Frederick Holland, volunteer at ReCreate Café.
The idea to bring fresh produce came from an early to mid-professionals group call Echelon, their mission is to help others.
"Engaging people throughout our community, encouraging participation in the mission, including service projects and elevating all people without discrimination," said Olivia Ruiz, with the Salvation Army.
The challenge is how do they manage fresh donations in a controlled way so supplies last long and nothing goes to waste.
The group created a sign-up online for people to choose one or many days to bring by food.
"It's bigger than us, we have the skills to help as young professionals and we want to do so," Ruiz said.
They're not only providing a balanced meal but bringing a smile too.
"They appreciate it and it's something that makes them happy and joy when they see the stuff coming in," Holland said.
To participate, visit https://chattechelon.youcanbook.me. For anyone using one of the new grocery delivery services, simply type in the address, 800 McCallie Avenue, and specify they deliver to ReCreate Café.
"This is a great project for church and school groups, and for companies looking for opportunities to make an impact on our community," says Thurston.
If you would like to get involved, the Salvation Army's echelon group is having a meet and greet on Tuesday at Moe's BBQ downtown from 5:30 to 7:30 on Tuesday, February 19.