To help provide food for children and families in need while school is not in session, Ballad Health and Morrison Healthcare are donating meals to Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee’s Summer Food Service Program.

The program distributes meals to children in need to provide necessary nutrition to youngsters and their families while schools are out. There are weekly distributions of food in Greene County as part of the program.

“There are so many children and families in our region who don’t have anywhere else to turn,” said Rhonda Chafin, executive director of Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee.

“Without meals provided through the Summer Food Service Program, these children could potentially go hungry – it’s just wrong that so many children don’t have the meals and resources they need to survive, thrive, grow and develop,” Chafin continued. “Our goal through the SFSP is to provide as many meals as possible, so more children are well-positioned to grow and succeed into the future.”

Morrison Healthcare and Ballad Health are providing food for the program to be distributed until schools resume their meal programs, according to a release from the health system. The program also furnishes meals for children participating in summer programs at community organizations such as Boys & Girls Clubs and Girls Inc.

“If there’s one thing we’ve learned for certain this year, it’s that our responsibility to our communities – especially the most vulnerable among us – extends far beyond hospitals and health care,” said Todd Norris, Ballad Health’s senior vice president of community health and system advancement. “Ballad Health has been working hard during the pandemic to stay in touch with organizations that are also committed to helping people, and partners such as Morrison Healthcare are crucial to our region and its ability to endure through difficult chapters such as these.”

Norris noted the SFSP, along with Ballad Health’s broader support of the Second Harvest Food Bank, is a natural extension of the Appalachian Highlands’ STRONG Accountable Care Community, which works to improve the economic, educational and health outcomes of citizens living in 21 counties in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.

“So many factors of our health and well-being are intrinsically tied to social and economic factors, and nutrition is a key building block in that,” Norris said. “This relationship with Morrison Healthcare is a great conduit to future success, and we’re all grateful to them for stepping up and supplying the Summer Food Service Program.”

To ensure children participating in the Summer Food Service Program are receiving the best possible nutrition, food boxes, meals and snacks must meet the same state and federal standards as school lunches.

As a national food and nutrition services company that also serves more than 750 hospitals and health care systems, Morrison Healthcare is well acquainted with those standards, the release stated.

“This summer, there’s a higher need than ever for food assistance,” said Deb Elsey of Morrison Healthcare. “We’re honored to serve the Appalachian Highlands with food that not only satisfies hunger and tastes great, but nourishes kids’ minds, bodies and spirits.”

More information about the Summer Food Service Program is available at www.netfoodbank.org.

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