Ballad Health, Morrison Healthcare partner to provide meals through Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee
For too many children in the Appalachian Highlands, summertime doesn’t mean playing outdoors and sleeping late. It means at least 10 long weeks without reliable, healthy lunches – a major problem further compounded by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
To provide necessary nutrition to children and families in need while schools are out, Ballad Health and Morrison Healthcare have teamed up with Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee (SHFBNT) for its Summer Food Service Program (SFPS), which distributes balanced, healthy meals to children in need.
“There are so many children and families in our region who don’t have anywhere else to turn,” said Rhonda Chafin, executive director of SHFBNT. “Without meals provided through the SFSP, 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.
“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.”
The SFSP provides food until most area schools reopen and resume their meal programs. The food – provided by Morrison Healthcare and Ballad Health – is available at pickup locations throughout the region. 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 healthcare,” 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 SHFBNT, is a natural extension of the Appalachian Highlands’ STRONG Accountable Care Community, which uses a Collective Model Framework 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 SFSP are receiving the best possible nutrition, food boxes, meals and snacks must meet the same state and federal standards as school lunches. As a leading national food and nutrition services company that also serves more than 750 hospitals and healthcare systems, Morrison Healthcare is well acquainted with those standards.
“This summer, there’s a higher need than ever for food assistance,” said Deb Elsey, RVP at 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.