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Tennessee Communities Rally To Secure $500,000 To Help Fight Childhood Hunger Through Walmart's Golden Spark Promotion

BENTONVILLE, Ark., Oct. 30, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Through Walmart's Fighting Hunger Together fall initiative, Mary Carol Webster was the first Tennessee resident to win a "Golden Spark" that resulted in a $50,000 grant from Walmart to help expand a backpack program in her community. Mary didn't stop there. She rallied her neighbors to enter the Golden Spark promotion which paid off when nine additional Tennesseans were randomly selected to win Golden Sparks, totaling 10 " Golden Sparks" and $500,000 in grants. Today, Walmart awards that $500,000 in grants to Second Harvest Food Banks of Middle and Northeast Tennessee.

"I never dreamed that I would win a Golden Spark award for my community," said Mary Carol Webster, the first Golden Spark winner from Smith County, Tenn. "With so many children in need, I am thankful that Walmart gave me and my neighbors the opportunity to support the children of Smith County and surrounding areas and hopefully make a difference in their lives."

The Second Harvest backpack programs are designed to meet the needs of Tennessee children by providing them with easy to prepare foods to take home during the weekends or holiday vacation when other resources they rely on, such as free or reduced-price school meals, are not available. Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee serves Smith County, Murfreesboro, Mt. Juliet, Cookeville and surrounding areas, while Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee serves Carter County, Roan Mountain and Cookeville.

According to Feeding America, the current child food insecurity rate in Tennessee is 25 percent—that's over 360,000 children. With the $500,000 in grants from Walmart, Second Harvest Food Banks of Middle and Northeast Tennessee will be able to provide over 2,000 children with more than 245,000 vital meals for the next three years. The backpack programs will be implemented in collaboration with Providence United Methodist Church, Grace United Methodist Church, West Wilson Middle and Rutland Elementary for Mt. Juliet; Murfreesboro City Schools BackPack Program for Murfreesboro; Smith County Help Center Backpack Program for Smith County; Putnam Education Partnership for Cookeville; Assistance & Resource Ministries, Range Elementary, Crossroads Christian and Hale Community Ministries for Carter County; Johnson City Schools, Powell Construction and Washington County Board Of School Health for Washington County.

"We are excited by the energy and engagement of our associates and customers in fighting hunger together.  The backpack programs started or expanded across the U.S. as a result of this initiative will help to provide an estimated two million weekend meals to children nationwide," said Sylvia Mathews Burwell, president of the Walmart Foundation. "During the past several weeks, we saw an exceptional level of engagement, especially in rural communities where the population may be small, but community spirit is certainly high. By providing unique and creative opportunities for our customers and associates to join the fight against hunger, we hope to make a lasting impact in the local communities that need it most."

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