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How a Memphis organization is fighting food insecurity

A Memphis organization is working to help more than 116,000 kids and their families in Shelby County who are food insecure.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Food insecurity is an ongoing issue, especially for children and their families who live in the Klondike and Smokey City neighborhoods.

In fact, here in Shelby County, more than 116,000 kids and their families are food insecure. One group is working to change that.

"Right now in Memphis, one of the community stores, Butcher Shop, has closed. Kroger and ... was one of the closest grocery stores the neighbors in Klondike and Smokey City can go to," Memphis resident Vivian Bolden said.

According to Memphis-Shelby County Schools, more than 25% of students get free lunch and more than 4% receive reduced lunch. 

The non-profit Whole Child Strategies (WCS) is working to change that by supporting those in these neighborhoods. 

WCS works with other organizations to provide food, clothing, economic equity and programs to help students graduate. 

Viola Hudson said the organization has gone above and beyond for her family, so much that she now volunteers.

"I'm in it because they're improving my children. Letting them finish school, encourage them to go to college, and convince them that whatever they want to do in life ... if you want to go to the service, if you want to go to job core, they help our babies," Hudson said.

WCS partners with MATA every Tuesday and Saturday to take residents to pick up food and clothes. 

"We bring the people in the community that doesn't have transportation ... the MATA bus will bring them to get a box of food to Catholic Charity and when we leave here, we'll make a block and then we take them to Cash Saver and that gives them time to go grocery shopping. They have a time limit until 12 o'clock," Hudson said.

The Klondike and Smokey City neighborhoods were considered thriving Black communities more than three decades ago until the Firestone Rubber and Tire Company closed. That caused an economic downturn for both communities. 

It also had an effect on schools, causing them to close due to low enrollment, performance, and investments. However, WCS is one organization that stepped in to bridge the gap. 

Hudson said it has helped her kids stay off the streets. 

"They delivered them from gang violence, gun violence, and also sex trafficking," Hudson said. "It's a very good program. We are trying to save our children."

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