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How can I help reduce hunger in our community?
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The Coaches Corner

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One out of five residents of our county is living in poverty. This makes providing enough for themselves and their families to eat is a challenge. In the midst of having plenty, we face the challenge of hunger.

The percentage of those living poverty is greater when you only take into account those under the age of 12. One-fourth of those in this age group are living in poverty. Sixty-six percent of school age children in our county quality for free and/or reduced cost lunches at their schools. Hunger in a child’s life can become a real barrier to a good and strong future.

Have you ever thought how you might get involved to help? Let me tell you about a way you can make a difference and enjoy yourself at the same time. On Thursday, Nov. 5, there will be a day called “Dine Out, Do Good Newton.” You can choose from nineteen different places to eat. Ten percent of what you pay for your meal will be donated to “Action Ministries” right here in Covington to support their efforts to reduce hunger.

You will find places representing a wide variety of foods as well as cost. The eating establishments participating are Amici Italian Café, Blimpie Subs, Bradley’s BBQ, Burrito Loco Bar and Grill, Chick-fil-A (Newton Plaza), Henderson’s Restaurant, Jersey Mike’s Subs (Covington and Loganville), Longhorn Steakhouse, the Mystic Grill, Plan Nuts Catering and Deli, the Social House (Porterdale), Square Perk Café, Walden’s Restaurant, Where There’s Smoke BBQ (Mansfield), and Zaxby’s (Covington Bypass and Turner Lake Road). These places are donating ten percent of their net proceeds for the day to the effort to fight hunger. Joining them will be Firehouse Subs and Johnny’s Pizza if you identify you are supporting “Dine out Dinner.”

Among the sponsors of “Dine Out, Do Good Newton!” are Element Funding, Pinnacle Realtors, and Snapping Shoals EMC. The gift from the Snapping Shoals EMC comes from their Unclaimed Capital Credit funds.

This past summer Action Ministry initiated in our county, “Smart Lunch Smart Kids.” Lunches were delivered to the schools in session during June and then in July there were distribution points where families could pick up a sack lunch for their children. Volunteers were the key to this program. Tamara Richardson, the area director for Action Ministries said, “Our volunteers are ordinary people doing extraordinary things.” I would say the extraordinary things they did this summer were “life changers”.

The same issue that the summer break created, as to where would the food come from to replace the food the children in need got at school, is repeated on a smaller scale every weekend. Action Ministries answer is an effort called “Back Pack Buddies”. Food is provided to be slipped into the eligible children’s back packs to supplement their meals for Saturday and Sunday. This is done with food provide by Action Ministries, but the actual placement is done by the school in a quiet and confidential way where even the other children do not see it done.

Another program to deal with hunger in our area, that Action Ministries is a key part of, are the boxes of stables that are given to eligible families to help them with their food needs. There are three places in the county now that are distribution points, Covington First United Methodist, Repairers of the Breach Ministries, and the Starrsville United Methodist Church. There is no charge to those receiving the boxes. The food in each box is worth from $25-30 and is designed to help a family of four for several days.

Plans call for more distribution points to be added in the near future. In the first eight months of this year, 1,570 households received boxes at Covington First. That one distribution point touched the lives of 4071 people.
Seventy-five percent of the American population eats out at least once a month according to the Department of Commerce. Half of those go at least once a week. The same report showed that for the first time in March of this year, Americans spent more on eating out than on groceries. These trends show that most of us could make a real difference if we choose to make Thursday, Nov. 5, one of our days to eat out and selected where to go from the list of participating places.

I urge you to invite some friends to join you on the fifth and have a good time as you make a real difference in some child’s life. You might even consider splurging and eating out twice that day. Every meal will count. If you do participate, I hope you will thank the establishment for participating in this effort to fight food insecurity in the lives of children.

This one day will not defeat hunger in our community but we can make progress. For every meal slipped in a back pack, for every household that gets a box of food, for every lunch distributed during the summer break we are making a meaningful difference in some young life. Join us on Thursday, Nov. 5 for “Dine Out, Do Good Newton!”

B. Wiley Stephens is a retired United Methodist Minister and author who now resides in Covington.