The program was founded in 2003 by Audrey Cloyd, an eighth-grader whose heart went out to fellow students at Science Hill’s former 8th- and 9th-grade campus who, for many different reasons, were not eating lunch.
Set on doing something to help, Audrey teamed up with the her mother, Suzy Cloyd, and went to work on securing grant funding and private donations with which the duo have been providing Food for Thought meals since then.
With no staff and with no overhead, every penny they have collected has gone to meal passes for students who depleted their cafeteria accounts, forgot or lost their lunch money or packed lunches from home, or started classes before the paperwork identifying them as homeless or otherwise in need made its way to the cafeteria.
Over the years the program was expanded to include Chick-fil-A meal passes and Food City gift certificates that school social workers sent home with students who struggled with hunger over weekends, holidays and other school breaks.
In 2007, Food for Thought received national recognition as a recipient of President George H.W. Bush’s Point of Light Award. For a couple of consecutive years, the program won Audrey national recognition as first a finalist and then a runner-up in the Nestle’s Very Best Youth competition.
Through all those years, Suzy said, Food for Thought stayed true to its original purpose: to help students in need of a meal, for any reason, live more productive lives. All that it accomplished was because a eighth-grader wanted to help other kids who were going hungry.
But alas, the program is close to running its course and school officials have been notified that, short of an unforeseen intervention, Food for Thought will end at the close of the school year.
The problem, Suzy said, is funding. For many years Food for Thought received grants that were applied for using the school system’s nonprofit status. When organizational rules ended that grant application process a few years ago, the program continued with private contributions that were more difficult to secure without the nonprofit designation Food for Thought lacks.
For the past several months, Suzy said she has attempted without success to find a local nonprofit organization to absorb Food for Thought. And falling short in that, she is now making her appeal public.
“It’s going to a take a person with passion, a person who sees this as their turn, their niche,” Suzy said. “And I’m hoping and I believe. Because since Audrey started, every time we thought it would end, something came through and allowed it continue.
“Now I just hope someone reads about it and sees the good and wants to keep it going.”
In her letter to the school system, Suzy wrote, “Food for Thought has been directly affecting the needs of children for the past 15 years.” On Wednesday she told the Johnson City Press, “Fifteen years is definitely a long time. We had no employees. No overhead. Every penny went to meals. And every child that got a meal was because of a program that was started by a student at Science Hill.
“It wasn’t a government program. It wasn’t even a school program. It was just a student who saw people not eating and wanted to resolve that.”
Before the program ends, Suzy invited anyone who would like to learn more about Food for Thought to contact her at 423-278-6347 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If there is a need or a project in your neighborhood the Good Neighbor column can assist with, contact Sue Guinn Legg at 423-722-0538 or P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605.
Email Sue Guinn Legg at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.