Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 1.09.28 PMThe most recent (2011) U.S. Census data reveal that there are 98,292 people (1 out of every 5 residents) living in poverty in Northeast Tennessee (out of a general population of 507,691). Childhood poverty is even more prevalent: more than 1 in 4 children under age 18 (29,474 children) live in poverty in the region.

Census data indicate that three counties in the Food Bank’s service area are among Tennessee’s 20 most impoverished counties (Hancock – 2nd highest poverty rate, Johnson – 11th highest poverty rate, and Greene – 16th highest poverty rate). Five of the eight Northeast Tennessee counties have a higher percentage of persons living below the poverty level than the State of Tennessee.

According to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap 2013: Food Insecurity report, 14.4% of Northeast Tennesseans (72,580 individuals) are considered food insecure; 1 in 4 children (26,830 under age 18) are considered food insecure.

In FY 2014, Second Harvest distributed 10.3  million pounds of food (equivalent to 8.58 meals).

Hunger in Northeast Tennessee


Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee serves 82,400 unique (unduplicated) clients annually including 22,359 children and 11,072 seniors over the age of 60.
The number of times individuals are reached through food distributions is 10,900 times in a typical week and 570,000 times annually.
Among all clients, 3 percent are black, 2 percent are Latino, and 91 percent are white.
4.4 percent of adult clients are students.
17 percent of households include someone who is a veteran or who has ever served in the military.
60 percent of Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee charitable agencies employ no paid staff and are operated exclusively by volunteers.


87 percent of households report purchasing inexpensive, unhealthy food because they could not afford healthier options.
77 percent of households report having to choose between paying for food and paying for medicine or medical care.
40 percent of households include a member with diabetes.
65 percent households have a member with high blood pressure.
19 percent of households do not have insurance.


Following are the choices client households reported making in the past 12 months:

69 percent report choosing between paying for food and paying for utilities.
70 percent report making choices between paying for food and paying for transportation.
77 percent report choosing between paying for food and paying for medicine/medical care.
48 percent report choosing between paying for food and paying for housing.
20 percent report choosing between paying for food and paying for education expenses.

88 percent of households reported using three or more coping strategies for getting enough food in the past 12 months. The frequency of these strategies among all households include:

66 percent report eating food past the expiration date;
39 percent report growing food in a garden;
40 percent report pawning or selling personal property;
87 percent report purchasing inexpensive, unhealthy food;
41 percent report watering down food or drinks;
51 percent report receiving help from friends or family


14 percent of respondents have faced foreclosure or eviction in the past five years.
Among all households served by Second Harvest Food Bank agencies and programs, 42 percent have at least one member who has been employed in the past year.
Among all households with an employed person, the person with the longest employment duration 69% is likely to be employed part-time and 30% full-time.
Statistics are from Hunger in America 2014. This study was conducted by Feeding America using rigorous academic research standards and was peer reviewed by a technical advisory team including researchers from American University, University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and the Urban Institute. Nationally, confidential responses were collected on electronic tablets by 6,000 trained data collectors, majority of whom were volunteers.

The study was funded by The Howard G. Buffett Foundation. The full national report is available on Feeding America at Hunger in America 2014.

Children and Hunger

Children and Hunger40% of the client households served by Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee have at least one member younger than age 18. Among client households with children younger than age 18, 43.7% are single parent households. The study shows that 79.9% of client households with children under 18 are food insecure. Among all clients with children, 4.1% stated that, during the previous 12 months, their children were often not eating enough because they just could not afford enough food. 18.2% of the clients with children said that their children skipped meals because there was not enough money for food during the previous months.
*According to Hunger in America Study 2010