KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Children who attend the after school program at Mount Zion Baptist Church, part of Emerald Youth Foundation's JustLead ministry, look forward to the hot meal that awaits them each day. Grilled chicken and a vegetable, hamburgers and fruit are among favorites.
For many, the delicious meal, which the children call "Special Snack," is more than a snack. It is dinner. Once they leave school, some children don't have any other food at home, said Robin Johnson, JustLead director at Mount Zion Baptist, 2714 Brooks Road. "There's not always enough food at home to last until the end of the month. Sometimes the meal here is the only one they will get.”
A longstanding partnership between Emerald Youth Foundation, founded in 1991 by Knoxville’s Emerald Avenue United Methodist Church, and Second Harvest Food Bank has helped provide stabilizing care for thousands of inner city young people over the past 10 years.
Emerald Youth provides after school, evening, weekend and summertime programming through its JustLead ministry for more than 980 children yearly. Through its Kids Café outreach, Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee, the region’s largest hunger relief charity, provides food for meals and snacks that children enjoy at many Emerald Youth program locations.
Emerald Youth offers a holistic approach of care each year to inner city youth by helping them grow in their faith, learning, relationships and health. And ensuring a young person doesn’t go hungry is a key to such youth development.
The delicious meals and snacks made from Second Harvest food are “a blessing,” said Johnson, who serves a meal to about 40 children and teens each day after school.
“You really don’t know what people’s home situation is until they come and tell you. Parents and sometimes the kids themselves will say, ‘We don’t have any food at home.’ Sometimes we’ll make a little box of food, vegetables and bread, for children to take home over the weekend,” she said.
"It’s not a case of people just taking handouts. Sometimes people with jobs don’t have enough food.”
Second Harvest also provides food for Emerald Youth program locations at New Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Lonsdale, Virginia Avenue Ministry in Beaumont, and the Baptist Center in Western Heights. Natalie Myers, JustLead coordinator at the Baptist Center prepares meals after school each day for about 60 JustLead children and youth. “The majority of that food comes to us from Second Harvest,” she said.
“We have been pleased to collaborate with Emerald Youth for the past 10 years,” said Gail Root, Second Harvest program director. “The primary purpose of a Kids Café is to provide children with nutritious meals. We understand as well that food can act as a great bridge and by working with organizations like Emerald Youth whose overall mission affects children in wonderful, positive ways, we can assist in the fulfillment of their mission.”
Shara Shoup, Emerald Youth senior director – programs, said Emerald Youth appreciates the relationship. “Partners such as Second Harvest allow us to focus on what we do best – providing youth with the fun and important experiences they need to mature into successful adults. We are grateful for Second Harvest’s dedication to Knoxville’s urban young people.”
Find out more about Emerald Youth Foundation.