Main Street Clarksville

No donation too small for Ms. Cheap Penny Drive for Second Harvest Food Bank

Many students at Middle Tennessee schools have competitions to raise money for the Ms. Cheap Penny Drive each year. FILE

It’s Penny Drive time again – an easy and meaningful way for all ages to support Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee in its fight against local hunger.

This is a great holiday project. What could be more meaningful than feeding hungry people during this season of giving?

The Penny Drive (Dec. 1-31) is my favorite project of the year, mainly because in past years, so many offices, law firms, Scout troops,  schools, churches, clubs, friends and families have participated and report back that the drive was meaningful and engaging.

Hunger is definitely real. Second Harvest estimates that hunger is a reality for more than 350,000 Middle Tennesseans and says that households with low food security often include children who may not eat for a whole day because there was not enough money for food.

And with food prices continuing to rise, and the cost of living going up and up and up, the need becomes even larger.

This is a time when every penny really does count. Second Harvest can provide four meals for every dollar donated, meaning you get a good bang for your buck. No donation is too small.

The goal of the drive is obviously to raise money, but it is also important to heighten awareness of the issue of hunger right here in our midst.

The bottom line is that the more money we raise, the more people we can help. Please join me in this 15th annual Ms. Cheap Penny Drive.

“Food shortages, inflation and supply chain issues across the country have drastically impacted Second Harvest’s ability to source donations of nutritious food for our neighbors facing hunger,” Second Harvest president and CEO Nancy Keil said.

“This means Second Harvest must provide more to feed our Middle and West Tennessee neighbors. By supporting our Virtual Food Drive, your gift will provide hope to those in need,” she said.

There are so many different ways to join in this effort. Here are a few ideas for participating:

*The Penny Drive can be both in-person and virtual. Due to the limited number of penny collection cans available, I highly recommend taking your Penny Drive online this year. Email Valerie Reta at and she’ll get your team set up online. Then all you have to do is share your team’s link and watch the pennies and other contributions roll in.

You can also send a check to Second Harvest/Penny Drive, 331 Great Circle Rd., Nashville, TN 37228.

*Keep a can or container in a prominent place in your home and contribute loose change and dollar bills each day.

*Encourage your children to do chores around the house to raise money to put in the container.

*Talk to your children about hunger and how they can help feed hungry neighbors. In Middle Tennessee, one in eight people and one in seven children are at risk of hunger, meaning they don’t know when or where their next meal will be.

*Search your home for loose change (as in free money). I read that Coinstar estimates that the average U.S. household has $90 in change sitting idle in their house. 

*If you are having a holiday party, make it a party with a purpose and invite your guests to bring a contribution to Second Harvest in lieu of a hostess gift.

*Use your social media to spread the word and to encourage others to participate in this year’s Penny Drive.

*Ask your office, church, Scout troop, club to set up a team to donate.

A few things to know:

*With so many of us not using cash these days, Second Harvest has made it easy to donate online.

*Since 2009, the Ms. Cheap Penny Drive has raised more than $2 million, which has provided more than 8.4 million meals to hungry Middle Tennesseans. Let’s keep building on that.

*Second Harvest of Middle Tennessee serves 46 counties and partners with almost 420 agencies in those counties. As one of the largest and most comprehensive food banks in the country, Second Harvest distributed more than 42 million pounds of food during the past year.

*Wilson Bank & Trust and Pinnacle Financial Partners are sponsors and you can pick up cans at their branches and you can drop off donations there. In addition to the two sponsoring banks, the Penny Drive is sponsored by Main Street Media of Tennessee and NewsChannel5.  


As Second Harvest says, “Together, we will fight hunger and feed hope! Thanks to all!

Mary Hance, who has four decades of journalism experience in the Nashville area, writes a weekly Ms. Cheap column. She also appears on Thursdays on Talk of the Town on NewsChannel5. Reach her at and follow her on Facebook as

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