These days, the program of the Full Gospel Mission Church on Sevier Avenue, pastored by Geraldine Swagerty, has seen demand grow to about 200 meals a day, Monday through Saturday. And because of a reduction in donations, Kitchen of Hope board member Dick Basham said the program is a few days away from running out of meat to serve, although he said vegetables and other items are still available.
The bottom line is the program needs meat donations. Although the Kingsport of Hope is glad to accept monetary donations, Basham said it is difficult to find meat to buy in large quantities. Two freezers at the operation were almost bare Thursday.
“What we really need is meat. We get lots of vegetables from the food bank,” Basham said Wednesday. “It’s (the donated meat) about dried up to nothing.”
He said the reason is the increased demand and a near shutoff of supply. He said most of the meat donations came from Walmart, which gave its nearly expired meats to the program. But in the world of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, Basham said shoppers are buying up most of the meat on the shelves well before the expiration dates.
“I would say it (demand) gradually increased about a month ago and then it spiked about a week ago,” Basham said.
He added that the current demand is about 200 meals a day, up from 161 to 170 about a week ago and a longer term average of 120 to 140 a month ago.
Meanwhile, the meat supply dwindled, although donations of mostly vegetables and some meats continue from the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee, an organization he said is overwhelmed with demand these days.
He said the Walmart donations, which also go to other not-for-profit groups, are facilitated by the food bank. Basham said the food bank came through with 80 pounds of fajita chicken, but with the current feeding level that will last only about three days.
Basham said the Kitchen of Hope won’t turn anyone away, but he noted that meals soon could become mostly meatless.
The program, which last year marked its 20th anniversary, provides meals with no questions asked Monday through Saturday from 3:30 to 5 p.m. from the basement of the church at 740 E. Sevier Ave., just off Center Street.
The meals are carry-out only since the pandemic.
“We have teams of churches all over the area that serve, in most cases once a month,” Basham said. However, he added that some volunteers are older and don’t feel safe being out in public.
To donate meat, other foods or money or to get more information about the program, call Basham at (423) 963-0970. He can facilitate folks bringing donations to the church or can get donations picked up. Donations of money (no cash should be sent through the mail) can go to the Kitchen of Hope, P.O. Box 3112, Kingsport, TN 37664.