Tennessee 4-Hers help families access healthy foods

Tennessee 4-Hers are helping families access healthy foods—and learning lessons through hard work and hustle.

One by one, the cars line up at the Clay County Fairgrounds, a center of kindness on this day. As each vehicle rolls forward, volunteers are moving with urgency – loading boxes of food.

The source is Second Harvest Food Bank in Nashville, with the organization then delivering the donations to Celina, more than 100 miles away. But there’s a local push to be part of this too, with UT Extension involved.

“The funding comes from around our community. I know there’s a few churches that contribute to the funding to bring the semi-truck in full of food for the food drive,” said Haley Barnes.

“There’s lots of people in our county who need it, and I think it’s really important to come out and help,” said Kendall Hamilton, one of the Clay County 4-Hers to help with the food distribution.

Inside this warehouse, the group fills the boxes, getting everyone a variety of healthy items. Then by the front door, cars pull up with young families and older adults – all ages, but no matter, if it’s someone from this community, many are grateful for the kids’ work and the food.

“I think not only do you better your community, but you learn how to teach others leadership by learning these roles of what they’re doing,” said Brie McLarren.

The 4-Hers help with this food drive three or four times a year. UT Extension leaders say everyone benefits here – the folks who receive these kinds of donations, and the 4-Hers who learn a valuable lesson.

Kristen Rich with UT Extension is right there with her 4-Hers, loading boxes and sending cars on their way. Rich wants kids to know you don’t have to be wealthy or even older to help someone.

“Teens can make an impact,” Rich says. “We typically bring about ten 4-Hers from the high school over and they help us distribute the food to the community. They are making a huge impact in our community. Everyone is so thankful for our kids coming to help.”

One of those helpful young people is Erin Meadows. For her, this food distribution is just typical of what she plans to do as an adult volunteer, and she encourages other kids to be thinking that way.

“They can get involved early, so when they graduate and they get into the adult world, they can come back and then can donate their time or money or food to this, and just help the next generation,” Meadows says.

Within a couple of hours, more than 800 people had been helped in this food drive.
In a few months, the cars will be back, and so will Second Harvest and more 4-Hers.
Here caring equates to impact- building a strong connection between these young people and their home community - all from the effort.

A number of Clay County 4-Hers have also been actively growing their own community garden.

Reporting by Charles Denney

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