DOBSON — The Surry County Sheriff’s Office and several local schools helped kick off an annual summer food drive for the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina on Wednesday.
Stationed in the parking lot of the sheriff’s office on Main Street, representatives from the organization collected cash and non-perishable food donations throughout the day.
The theme of this year’s drive is dubbed “Go the Extra Mile to End Summer Hunger,” targeting the time of year when children who depend on free or reduced-price meals at school for sustenance are let out for summer.
Without those school meals, those children are at risk of going hungry.
Chuck Harmon, a food bank staffer who is known for TV coverage of the annual food drives, will hike 250 miles across 18 counties to raise awareness about the problem of hunger and the food and funds drive aimed to help stop it.
“I’ve been telling people on TV for 15 years we cover from Burlington to Boone. Now we’re going to show them,” said Harmon, who last year walked from the WXII television station in Winston-Salem to Mount Airy to bring attention to the annual event.
Harmon added that his partnership with Sheriff Graham Atkinson, who accompanied Harmon on the Pilot Mountain-to-Mount Airy leg last year, prompted him to start this year’s drive in Surry County.
“I couldn’t have it anywhere else but here,” he said.
The sheriff said he was “throwing down the gauntlet” to other sheriffs.
“I challenge every sheriff in every county to meet or exceed what’s been done here,” Atkinson said.
Students from Rockford Elementary, Surry Central High, Central Middle, Mountain Park Elementary, Copeland Elementary, Flat Rock Elementary, Dobson Elementary and North Surry High walked with Harmon on different occasions throughout the day.
“We want our students to recognize that there are opportunities to give back to our community and our state,” said Sonia Dickerson, Surry County Schools spokesperson.
“The schools involved in the walk certainly understand the need of providing food for students during the summer months and wanted to help with the cause.”
Some schools sent a small convoy of students to the sheriff’s office and the kids hiked with Harmon around the Historic Courthouse.
The sheriff escorted Harmon to other schools where the entire student body participated.
“These are what’s called training walks,” Harmon said.
At Central Middle School, the drum line led the student body for several laps around the parking area, collecting cash or spare change donations which will be doubled by sponsors involved in a matching campaign.
“That made my day, the drum line and the sea of young people,” Harmon told Atkinson after the event.
Other local civic and faith organizations, businesses and individuals, passed through the parking lot to contribute.
Joe Kilar, food drive coordinator, said the organization’s goal was to collect $3 from 100,000 different people.
The cash donations, “help us spin money into the exact things we need to replace,” he said.
Meeting that goal will result in a week’s worth of food for each child serviced by the food bank, or two weeks when doubled through the matching campaign.
An average of 3,948 people are served monthly through Second Harvest emergency feeding programs in Surry County, according to Jan Jones, regional outreach manager for the food bank.
“While a typical food drive collection day in any given community might bring in a few thousand pounds, for FY 2014-15, Second Harvest Food Bank provided 864,000 pounds of food, the equivalent of nearly 720,000 meals, to our partner agencies in Surry County,” Jenny Moore, food bank spokesperson, stated in an email.
Moore explained that Second Harvest sources food from additional sources such as grocery retailers, processors and wholesalers, farmers and community gardens, special grants to meet the partner network’s needs.
Local partner agencies include: Foothills Food Pantry, Iglesia Wesleyana Cristo Te Amo, Miracle Waters Food Ministry, Mount Airy Church of God, The Salvation Army, Trinity Episcopal Church, Yokefellow Ministry of Mount Airy, S.E.A.M.S. Ministries, Inc. and ECHO Ministry shelter.
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.