Editorial Roundup: Tennessee

Kingsport Times News. Sept. 9, 2021.

Editorial: One in four children are food insecure

As a bank distributes cash to customers, Second Harvest, the only food bank in Northeast Tennessee, distributes nourishment, lots of it, to a whole lot of what are called pantries which feed the hungry directly.

In all of 2020, Second Harvest gave out 12.1 million pounds of food. Since March of last year to date, it has given out more than 14 million pounds of food, surpassing the entire amount distributed in all of 2019. It amounts to more than eight million meals, feeding the hungry in an eight-county region of Northeast Tennessee composed of Carter, Greene, Hancock, Hawkins, Johnson, Sullivan, Washington and Unicoi counties.

You might be familiar with some of Second Harvest’s customers: The Salvation Army, Indian Springs Community Mission Center, Unicoi Church of God, Ketron Memorial UMC, First Christian Church of Kingsport, Northern Greene County Ministries, Colonial Heights Christian Church, Kitchen of Hope, St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Of One Accord, Orebank Missionary Baptist Church, First UMC of Johnson City, Gravelly Baptist Church, First Presbyterian Church, Hope House Pregnancy Center, and the Johnson City Housing Authority. There are many more.

That’s because on average, 16% of people living in those counties are food insecure, not knowing where their next meal will come from. They include one in four children in the region.

September is Hunger Action Month, when those who can are asked to give to those in need. That includes local organizations which provide direct food service to the hungry, but feeding them all is Second Harvest, which is asking for your help under this year’s theme: “Food shouldn’t be an impossible choice!”

“September is always very important to Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee and very important to all the other food banks in the national Feeding America network,” said Rhonda Chafin, Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee executive director.

“During this month we will work to inspire people to take action and raise awareness.”

Chafin said the number of individuals and families in our region who don’t have enough food rose during the pandemic, has decreased some, but is expected to rise again.

“Before COVID, we were serving on average 40,000 to 45,000 individuals a month. That number increased to 55,000 individuals. We’ve seen that number drop, but now we anticipate that number will increase again because children are at home. We know many children are at home right now isolating,” Chafin said.

“We hope you will take time that day to do something that will inspire, that you will hopefully get your neighbors and your community mobilized to help those that are hungry,” Chafin said, adding that in 2019, the most recent year of data available from Feeding America, the eight-county region of Northeast Tennessee had 81,000 people who were food insecure.

“That number continues to climb,” Chafin said. “We need to mobilize every member of our communities to get involved.”

Every dollar donated to Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee provides 3.27 meals. You may donate by sending checks to P.O. Box 3327, Johnson City, TN 37602; by dropping donations off at 1020 Jericho Drive, Kingsport, 37663; or going online at netfoodbank.org. You may also donate food by dropping off cans at a participating partner. You can find those at netfoodbank.org. Click on “Need help?” and then “Find a food pantry.”

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Johnson City Press. Sept. 14, 2021.

Editorial: Solar opportunities help region shine

We were pleased to see this week an announcement from unlikely partners The Nature Conservancy and Dominion Energy with a plan to build a large solar farm on 1,200 acres at the site of the former Red Onion surface mine near Pound, Virginia.

The 50-megawatt solar farm will provide enough power for 12,500 homes and will bring the role of energy production back to the region, this time with a cleaner alternative to burning fossil fuels.

Closed surface mines are perfect sites for utility-scale solar power generation, because the land at these sites is often cleared of trees and leveled and is sometimes left unsuitable for residential development.

A new, clean energy purpose will help turn the negatives left by mountain removal and pit mining into positives.

Earlier this year, The Nature Conservancy announced two other solar projects on its managed lands in Southwest Virginia.

According to the nonprofit group, a big driver making the turn toward clean energy possible is support from elected officials, like the Virginia Clean Energy Act, enacted last year to encourage the state’s utilities to produce electricity from carbon-free sources by 2050.

We’ve seen similar public-private partnerships play out in Tennessee, too, where a 5-megawatt solar farm went live in 2019 and a 9-megawatt farm is under construction, both in Washington County.

It’s encouraging that our region is seizing the opportunity to take part in our nation’s energy future.

We hope the trend continues and gains additional support from public officials and private-sector leaders.

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