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Food donations running low
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Food donations running low
Group that helps hungry kids asks community for help

As the CHEW volunteer passed out the bags of food to hungry school children for the upcoming weekend, one little girl had a peculiar request.

"Can I have a flashlight in my bag?” she said.

While the volunteer was perplexed at first, the little girl’s explanation would prove to be heartbreaking. She needed that flashlight for her only place of refuge — the closet.

It was only the place she felt safe enough to eat; she feared someone would steal her food.

That little girl is one of nearly 600 Wilson County School students who are currently being fed on the weekends through the nonprofit CHEW (Children’s Hunger Elimination of Wilson).

"It’s hard to fathom you’ve got as large of a group of kids in this community and that’s what they think about,” said CHEW board member Glenn Blackwell about child hunger.

While the organizations has spent the last year making sure chronically hungry children are fed while away from school, they’ve teamed up with the Home Builders Association of Wilson to ensure that little girl and the rest of the students will have food over the holiday break.

"This food drive’s sole purpose is to try to take care of the students during the two-week holiday break,” said Blackwell, who is also a part of the Home Builders Association of Wilson. "I don’t think people realize the magnitude of the number of students who are in the community that are in this situation.”

The food drive will run from now until Dec. 23. There are currently two food drop-off locations — the Walmart parking lot and at The Shoppes at Brentwood. The association has set up two trailers, which are manned by volunteers.


The food drive event will last from now until Dec. 23. Large trailers are stationed at two locations for the community to drop-off nonperishable food items. The Walmart parking lot location is open on Mondays through Fridays from 5 to 7 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. The Shoppes at Brentwood location is open Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Churchwell’s Jewelers, Vaughan’s Jewelers and Quince will also be collecting food items at their businesses.

Food items needed include:

• Canned vegetables, fruits and meats

• Dry milk

• Fruit juice (small boxes)

• Peanut butter

• Soup

• Mac and cheese

• Canned spaghetti and ravioli

• Ramen noodles (big item)

• Instant oatmeal and grits

• Healthy cereals
While the food drive began earlier this month, food donations have been low. Blackwell said in a three-hour span on Saturday, he had only four people drop-off food donations. He said usually it’s lower than that.

"I may have one or two people stopping by making donations,” he said.

And officials are worried they might have to choose which age group gets fed during the two-week holiday break if they don’t receive enough donations.

CHEW, which is made up of churches, individuals, business leaders and school officials, formed last year after the group became aware that the only full meals some Wilson County children received were while they were at school. Together, they laid the groundwork and established a backpack program to ensure those children didn’t go hungry.

The nonprofit began feeding about 90 students. Now, they’ve identified nearly 600 chronically hungry students with the help of school officials.

"You don’t realize that it’s going on in your own backyard,” Blackwell said. "There is so much need right here.”

Officials have said The Wilson Times’ coverage of hunger issues has played a role in the growing support of CHEW, as well as making the community aware about such a hidden problem. The Times also began a series of stories last year titled "Hidden Hunger” documenting the struggles families face each day with food insecurity.



In 2011, 41 percent of children and teenagers in Wilson County lived below the poverty level, up about 3 percent from 2010, according to current figures from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

Research shows good nutrition in the first three years of a child’s life will determine his or her physical and mental health, as well as educational achievements and economic productivity, according to Feeding America, the country’s leading hunger-relief charity, which provides food to millions of Americans each year.

Across the country, 16.2 million children under 18 live in households that can’t provide continual access to nutritious food, according to Feeding America. Children without food have poorer health and stunted development in their early years, research indicates. While in school, those same children can experience many behavior problems.

"They are already at a disadvantage and behind,” Blackwell said referring to hungry children at school. While the economy slowly improves, officials hope the poverty rate will decrease. But in the meantime, officials said, it’s important to not forget the children.

"It’s an investment in your own community to try and help them,” Blackwell said.



On Wednesday afternoon, Jerry Baker and Tac Cozart with J.W. Hunter Construction delivered several items to the CHEW food drive at the Walmart location. Both said their boss, Bill Hunter, wanted to get involved and help the children.

"Our boss made a donation and we went to pick up a truck bed full of food,” Baker said. "It’s a way to give back to the community. It’s a way to help those that are less fortunate than we are and take care of our youth. That’s important to us.”

Baker, who also attends Farmington Heights Church, is also a CHEW volunteer. He said he got involved with the organization about four months ago because his church adopted Jones Elementary students to ensure they’re fed on weekends.

"It’s important to have kids eating when they’re not in school,” he said. "Right here in our own backyard you have people that have kids that aren’t getting a full meal when they’re not in school. We’re here to take care of each other.”

Baker and Cozart said they encourage the community to donate to the food drive.

"I think it would be easy for a business in particular to either make a donation to buy these types of food that will feed the kids, or to collect at an office space, put up a donation box in the office and just collect over time and then make a donation,” Baker said.

He also said individuals can easily donate, too.

"It doesn’t have to be a truck bed load,” Baker said. "It could be $10 worth of food. Every little bit helps.”



Cozart said he didn’t know about the plight many children in Wilson face each day until recently. He said Hunter and Baker told him about CHEW’s mission and the need within the community.

"I was blown away,” he said. "It was the first I had ever heard about it. It’s like Glenn said, you just don’t think about things like that.”

CHEW is run solely by volunteers. Monetary donations go directly to the feeding mission. It takes about $12,000 to feed Wilson’s chronically hungry children each month. The nonprofit has estimated that for the two-week holiday break, it will cost about $40,000 to feed nearly 600 hungry children. But they hope the community will think about those children each time they shop at the grocery store from now until Christmas.

"It’s important we get the word out to everybody,” Baker said. "If every family would pick up an extra few (food items) and drop them off, we could fill this trailer up.”
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View Comments:Show/Hide(19 comments)
RY3P5 said...

Whatever "lady". I'd rather be a "mindless sheep" if that's YOUR opinion. I will drink the Kool-Aid (it tastes so sweet!) and merrily give food to CHEW. I will spread love while you continue to spit venom. Good luck with that and Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 05, 2012 at 8:47 AM
@@retired school teacher said...

Knock yourself out! Get in line with the rest of the mindless sheep who refuse to listen to reason! People who see the school situation on a daily basis are better able to explain the reality, but you are one of the Kool-Aid drinkers who keep our country supplied with left-wing liberals who keep on handing out free stuff to able-bodied workers. Rather than get in line to help CHEW, why not be an independent thinker and find an actual hungry child to give food to? CHEW is well-meaning but poorly informed.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012 at 6:11 PM
@ Retired school teacher... said...

You have got to be the most miserable person on earth. I plan to take my 5 yr old. to the grocery store this week and happily load up on food for CHEW. Why? Because I want to help a hungry child. I DON'T CARE about what you have observed in the lunch room in your years of teaching. You seem like a heartless person. If the food I give to CHEW only helps ONE hungry child, I will be a happier person. Go climb back in your trash can, Oscar! Now, I know what you are som familiar with where all that food goes!

Monday, December 03, 2012 at 11:59 AM
more, more, more said...

These children are getting 10 out of 21 of their meals for free each week at school. Where is all that government assistance money that mom and dad get going? There should be plenty of money to feed their darlings the other 11 meals of the week IF the money is used correctly! It's a disgrace!

Monday, December 03, 2012 at 9:20 AM
Just do it said...

If you have extra, count your blessings and give. God will judge those who threw away and those who ate and did the best that they could! Personally, I've only known one small child who had no food at home, but it certainly wasn't her fault!

Sunday, December 02, 2012 at 10:19 AM
To Are The Children Ok.... said...

That's a great idea lets let government intrude even more and NOT solve anything. That's so smart.

Sunday, December 02, 2012 at 9:21 AM @Santa's helper said...

Read the comment! I said I taught middle and high school. The students I referenced were 14-18 years old.

Saturday, December 01, 2012 at 3:47 PM Are the children ok? said...

Shouldn't the Dept of Social Services investigate these families that can't feed their kids? Sounds like the little girl who asked for a flash light doesn't need to be in a home where she is hungry and has to hide food. I think CHEW should be required to report situations like that. It is neglect, whether intentional or not.

Friday, November 30, 2012 at 8:54 PM Santa's helper said...

Please show me one case where a judge has told a seven year old to choose between going to school and going to jail.

Friday, November 30, 2012 at 8:52 PM @to what the heck said...

Your statement is an opinion: "...this is a great organization to give back to the needy." In my communication skills classes in 7th grade, we have a lesson on "Evaluating Opinions." During this lesson, we discuss how certain people are more qualified than others to have a specific opinion. Then there's an exercise that practices reading an opinion and choosing who is the most qualifed from four descriptions of people.
Long story short, whatever you may have taught, many of the people who are persuaded to give money to CHEW are not being given all of the facts; instead, they are being fed an emotionally-loaded story of poor, sweet, innocent, hungry children eating food by flashlight in a closet to avoid having their food taken by others. My comments were intended to provide a more realistic take on the actual facts about the children who are recipients of the CHEW program's benevolence.
This article is just one more example of how the Wilson Times is presenting biased information to its subscribers.

Friday, November 30, 2012 at 7:07 PM @ @to what the heck said...

My comment was not to belittle your ignorance or hatred towards mankind. I was just stating that this is a great organization to give back to the needy. You cannot group everyone together as "bad seeds" from your own observations. If everyone was grouped together, we would all be considered grinches like yourself. p.s. I also was a teacher. Merry Christmas.

Friday, November 30, 2012 at 2:42 PM @To what the heck? said...

"People" have been telling me about a multitude of abuses of government assistance, but most of my knowledge comes from personal experience. I taught for 30 years in middle and high school. I know all about the students who shut down and won't do anything during the last thirty minutes before lunch. However, I have observed these students in action, and the last thing I feel for them is sorry. These students receive free breakfast and lunch at school, and for many, these meals are the sole motivation to come to school. They are not in school because they have any ambition to "give back to our community." Many are in school because a judge told them to attend school or go to jail. They know no other lifestyle than that of their parents and grandparents; i.e., as parasites of the system. I've seen them arrogantly make their way through the cafeteria line, then go straight to the trash can to dump their entire lunch tray while enjoying chips and ice cream they purchased. Rather than maintaining the totally unrealistic views you state in your comment, perhaps a reality check is in order in the form of a visit to a school cafeteria during lunch sessions. Those who donate money to "this wonderful organization" could all benefit from actual observations in a school cafeteria. Then they could see for themselves these "innocent children" in action. A good dose of cold, hard facts would be a terrific idea before posting and further comments about CHEW.

Friday, November 30, 2012 at 1:30 PM To what the heck? said...

This program is not designed to give " weekend snack". It is to increase the chances of innocent children to succeed. The CHEW passes out to these children meals for the weekend. Each backpack contains just enough for them to get by throughout the weekend. This still doesn't solve the problem of not eating lunch or breakfast at school. Unfortunately there are parents that may abuse the system, but there are many in this program that do not. There are parents who work two or more jobs just to heat their homes in the winter and provide shelter from the rain. These may be single parents. Single not due to irresponsibility but single due to death or the necessity to flee from violence. These may be grandparent guardians that decided to take their grandchildren as their own. These grandparents may not can afford their own medical bills, but have decided to provide love to their family. Teachers have witnessed these children eat ketchup packets in the lunchroom just to stop hunger pains. This is the Christmas holiday. We all may be wondering what new toy our children "need". Unfortunately many families are wondering where their next meal will come from. Statistics show that children who are not chronically hungry pay more attention in school, make better grades, have more social skills, and have more of a chance to succeed in life. Children that are chronically hungry can be the complete opposite due to the only thing they can concentrate on is the growling of their stomachs. If we all donate to this wonderful organization, it will to only help these innocent children, but will allow for a better community. If we help these children with just a simple meal, they may decide to give back to outpr community and break the cycle of what "people" have been telling you.

Friday, November 30, 2012 at 8:16 AM What the heck? said...

I thought the idea was to give the kids food that was kid-friendly. What is a 7-year-old going to do with a can of green beans? They can't even open the can, much less heat them up! When did this program go from being a provider of weekend snacks to regular canned food collectors?
More importantly, many people I have spoken to feel that the only reason there are any chronically hungry children in Wilson is because their parents are misusing food assistance. People have told me stories of those who get food with their WIC or EBT accounts, then sell it to others for cash to buy other things. Social Services needs to investigate every case of a chronically hungry child! They'll probably uncover a bunch of chronically sorry parents!

Thursday, November 29, 2012 at 5:30 PM Ernestine Cobb said...


Thursday, November 29, 2012 at 3:53 PM The Wilson Times said...

@Ernestine Cobb

Thursday, November 29, 2012 at 1:45 PM to Hmmm said...

Easy to say when you don't do anything to help. Don't act so smug. The tables could easily be turned and you could end up one of the "takers."

Thursday, November 29, 2012 at 12:30 PM Ernestine Cobb said...

I'd like to share this on Facebook. Is there a way to do that? Thanks!

Thursday, November 29, 2012 at 11:37 AM Hmmm, said...

Guess we have too many 'takers' here, huh?

Thursday, November 29, 2012 at 9:20 AM
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