By Dr. Linda McCafferty
For more than 30 years, I have practiced medicine and seen hunger up close.
I have seen the looks on patients’ faces when they must choose between filling their prescription or filling their pantry.
I’ve seen families, struggling financially, living paycheck to paycheck, who can’t afford nutritious food. I’ve seen the cycle of those living off low-cost food, full of fat, preservatives and other unhealthy ingredients that only serve to feed their chronic illnesses. Food insecurity leads to significant adverse physical, emotional and mental health issues. For the children, lack of proper nutrition gives way to developmental issues that often spill over into their adult lives. It’s a cycle we must break.
Right here in Middle Tennessee, one-in-eight of our neighbors are food insecure, with one-in-five of them being children. That means they simply don’t know where their next meal is going to come from.
For several years I have supported Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee with my dollars, but since 2018, I’ve also given my time. It’s changed my life.
My first shifts were in the warehouse sorting food, but I was quickly drawn to their Mobile Pantries, one-day distributions that bring about 20,000 pounds of food directly to hungry families and individuals. Back when Second Harvest first started, more than 98 percent of all the food was non-perishable, canned goods. Today, more than 30 percent of all the food distributed is perishable.
At a typical Mobile Pantry, we’ll bag food that includes fresh vegetables, fruit and other healthy items. We’ll escort families through the distribution lines and then help load their vehicles with nutritious food that is so much better for them than the pre-packaged, processed food so many are forced to eat. And then we’ll share a hug or a handshake, all the while giving kindness and a sense of dignity to those in need.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?” I think that’s a question we all need to continually ask ourselves.
What I’ve learned from volunteering is that our life’s journey should include helping each other. Giving time and care to others in any way we can enhances us all.
So, whether it’s at Second Harvest or any other of the many worthy non-profit organizations here in the state, I encourage you to give not only of your dollars – because that’s so important – but also of your time. It will be one of the best gifts you can give yourself.
To learn more about volunteer opportunities with Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee, please visit: www.secondharvestmidtn.org
Dr. Linda McCafferty is an Internal Medicine specialist with Signify Health and resides in Franklin, Tennessee.