Sevier County Food Ministries prepared for holiday need

Nov. 21, 2012 @ 12:39 AM

Thanks in part to food donations from area attractions, Sevier County Food Ministries is prepared to feed families throughout the holiday season.

"The community thinks of us during Thanksgiving," said director Steve Streibig.

On Monday, the agency fed almost 700 families, fewer than the 715 families the agency fed the Monday before Thanksgiving 2011.

During Thanksgiving week, the ministries give Sevier County families food packages that are more generous than at other times of year. The holiday distribution includes a six-pound hen, yams, cranberries, broth, stuffing, vegetables, fruit, snacks, eggs and potatoes. The organization also will distribute holiday packages for Christmas.

Sevier County Food Ministries fed 1,600 families during Thanksgiving week last year. Streibig anticipates serving at least that many this year. "We've planned for more than 1,800," he said. "We should be fine."

In November and December, the ministries' warehouse holds extra food. "We know there will be great need this time of year," said Streibig. Many of the food items arrived courtesy of drives organized by businesses such as Dollywood, Ripley's, Lumberjack Feud, the Gatlinburg Sky Lift and Fee Hedrick Family Entertainment.

The agency is supported by dozens of churches from various denominations. Almost all of its work is performed by volunteers. It provides emergency, supplemental food services for families experiencing shortages, Streibig notes, not complete nutrition. This week, the service is open Tuesday, noon-5 p.m. and Wednesday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m, and it is closed Thursday and Friday. The food ministry is located at 890 Old Knoxville Highway in Sevierville.

Donations to the ministries are generous this time of year. They are less generous after the holidays. "The surplus these weeks has to last into January," said Streibig. "We are open 52 weeks per year. We serve our neighbors in the holiday and normal seasons."

Founded in 1992, Sevier County Food Ministries serves 1,123 families per week, on average. Streibig, who has been director since 1998, is stepping down. His last day is Nov. 30.

"Thanksgiving is a good time of year to be moving on," he said. "It brings back lots of memories, and reasons to be grateful."