County schools get summer feeding grant

Chelsie Foxx, Loudon County Schools employee, packs a bag of food to be distributed to families at Fort Loudoun Middle School.

The East Tennessee Foundation recently granted $10,000 to Loudon County Schools to ensure its feeding program can continue through the summer.

Funding comes from the foundation’s Neighbor to Neighbor Disaster Relief Fund, which is activated in the event of a regional emergency, Deanene Catani, ETF director of communications, said. The last time the fund was used was in 2016 during the Sevier County wildfires.

The foundation activated the fund March 18 to help all 25 counties of East Tennessee. Nearly $1 million has since been provided to various organizations.

The foundation helped “a number of organizations in Loudon County” with $40,000 so far, and more could be on the way. A majority of the money has been used to provide food-based programs, Catani said.

Grant applications are available through the ETF website.

Matthew Tinker, county high school supervisor and career and technical education director, applied after discussing grant opportunities with County Commissioner Adam Waller. Waller knew about the grants through his work with the Pat Summit Foundation.

Tinker said the money would be used to cover labor costs associated with the summer food distribution.

“(The $10,000) will cover a six-week period,” Tinker said. “… So it will get us through most of the way through June.”

In light of COVID-19, the foundation started “loosening restrictions” on fund usage because it knew organizations were “stressed whether they’re providing services or additional services or trying to make ends meet,” Catani said.

“Wherever we can, we have exercised flexibility, so we’re making it as simple as possible,” she said.

The foundation is allocating funds in three phases.

“We already have been providing a number of grants for immediate need due to disaster and that’s phase one,” Catani said. “Then we will be looking at phase two, which is helping organizations that have lost their funding due to the pandemic. They haven’t been able to have their events. They haven’t been able to charge subscription fees or anything like that … We’ve already received grant applications in that regard, so we think about 40 percent of what we’ve been able to raise will go to immediate need, 40 percent will be going to some of that interim, operational need. We think another smaller percentage will go to what we’re calling phase three, and that’s really trying to help organizations who are still open to get to a healthy operational state, kind of where they were before COVID-19 struck us.”

Catani said the foundation mostly helps 501(c)(3) nonprofits but often works with churches and school systems with food-based programs.

Tinker expects the money to arrive “very soon,” but has also been working on covering the second half of summer.

“I am working with Ty Ross, the (Loudon) city manager, and Loudon on another grant with them and (Tennessee Valley Authority) that would hopefully get us through the rest of the summer,” he said. “… So far, so good on that. We just finished all of the application this week, and I think Ty has everything that he needs so hopefully we will hear back something early next week or the week after that.”