A crowd of people stand outside the gym at New Midway Baptist Church in Kingston as a truck from Second Harvest Food Bank pulls into the parking lot with boxes of groceries to unload.
They meet here every third Tuesday of the month.
“As soon as the truck gets here, I start coordinating everything, where the food needs to go, where the people need to go. Then, I set up the delivery routes and send everyone off to where they need to go,” explains Nathan Wray, the Prevention Coordinator at Roane County Anti-Drug Coalition.
His organization is among several groups involved in a new program called G.R.A.C.E, which stands for Grocery Resource And Community Empowerment. Volunteers organize groceries from Second Harvest Food Bank into boxes and then deliver them to homebound senior citizens throughout Roane County.
“It’s a new approach to things,” explains Sam Compton, the Youth and Senior Programs Manager at Second Harvest. “We know we have seniors who are going hungry, and a lot of these seniors are raising kids. This is an effort to reach them.”
Jamie Jordan, one of the organizers of the new program, said he got the idea after learning of the correlation between malnutrition and Alzheimer’s disease.
“If you have a vitamin deficiency, and you’re over 70, it just looks like you have dementia. Sometimes, a family will assume Grandma has Alzheimer’s or something, and they treat her that way when really it’s a lack of a good diet,” Jordan said.
He began working closely with Amber Jacks at Mid-East Community Action Committee to come up with a solution to the nutritional problem they were seeing in their community, and the G.R.A.C.E. program was formed.
“That first day, we had ten little boxes,” Jordan said about the first time they came together in August. “Now, it’s grown to this,” Jordan said as he motions to a gymnasium full of volunteers, canned foods, and vegetables. In December, they delivered 90 boxes to residents in Roane County, and they hope to continue growing the program.
If you’re interested in volunteering, the group meets at New Midway Baptist Church in Kingston every third Tuesday at 10 a.m. If you know someone who might be in need, you can call the church at 354.0450.