Tennessee Hunger Coalition
In 1978, the anti-hunger group MANNA, based in Nashville, Tennessee, established the Tennessee Hunger Coalition (THC) as a privately funded non-profit organization. Described as a group of “poor people and their allies,” the THC worked throughout the state of Tennessee to help feed the hungry and change the conditions that produce hunger. The THC had both group and individual members who paid annual dues on a sliding scale and were encouraged to actively participate in local, state, and national efforts to alleviate hunger and impact policy. The organization did not provide direct services but worked to end hunger through advocacy, education, and organizing. In 1987, for example, the THC began working in local areas to see that the federally funded School Breakfast Program was implemented. The THC initiated and helped pass a law that required schools with large percentages of students from low-income families to participate in the breakfast program. As a result of the increased participation more than 100,000 children started the school day with a good breakfast.
In addition to supporting and working with allied organizations that provide emergency services such as food boxes, soup kitchens, and other direct feeding programs, the THC continually sought long-term solutions to help people stabilize their situations. They worked to improve access to health care, expand childcare services, and remove barriers in the Food Stamp Program. They lobbied for a fair and adequate state tax system, and sought improvements in the Aid for Families with Dependent Children program (AFDC) which would allow families to keep more income from work or child support before benefits were cut or terminated.
The THC received support through grants from national church agencies, private foundations, and from contributions by individuals, local churches, organizations, and other donors. It served as a clearinghouse of information about hunger and poverty, and networked agencies providing services with people needing services. It advocated for changes and improvements for people from all kinds of economic, racial, ethnic, social, and political backgrounds in rural and urban areas all over Tennessee.
Based in Knoxville, Tennessee, Charlie Blair served as the Coordinator for East Tennessee from 1985 to 1989. Rachel Bliss served as Coordinator for several years following his tenure. The longest serving organizational member, Sara Scott, also of Knoxville, worked with the THC from 1980 to 1996. Jon Hall, of Kingsport, Tennessee, served as the Assistant to the Coordinator for East Tennessee from 1994 to 1996. Harrold Carter was the Executive Coordinator in Nashville.