Feeding Central Florida’s Hungry
More than 55,000 people need food assistance per week in Central Florida, according to a Feeding America national hunger study. After recognizing the need for hunger assistance in the area, several members of the Community Christ Church created Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida in 1983. Many community partners supported the effort, and the nonprofit food bank has continued to grow as a secular operation, now serving over 550 nonprofit feeding programs in six counties.
Second Harvest has three distribution centers – located in Orlando, Daytona Beach and West Melbourne – which serve beyond those cities to Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Lake, Brevard and Volusia counties.
The food that is stored in the warehouse comes from the USDA government commodities program called The Emergency Food Assistance Program, community food drive collections and many companies within the food industry, such as manufacturers, wholesalers, restaurants and farmers.
There are several programs offered by Second Harvest, but the largest program is the collection and distribution of donated food to local feeding programs, providing more than 50 million pounds of groceries annually. Other programs include Benefits Connection, where volunteers help qualified candidates gain access to SNAP benefits, and the Darden Foundation Community Kitchen, which gives people in need of assistance a 14-week culinary training program. The organization has also partnered with Universal Orlando Foundation to create “Bites, Camera, Action!” a program that helps educate children about healthy eating.
In Central Florida, 47 percent of the members of households served by Second Harvest Food Bank are children, according to the Second Harvest website. Many children suffering from hunger only get a meal at school, because the family can’t afford food. In response, Darden Restaurants and Second Harvest created the Hi-Five Kids Pack Program, where children in need can take home kid-friendly food packs containing cereal, shelf-stable milk, juice, fruit cups and other food items.
Nonprofit organizations that have feeding as part of its mission can use the services of the food bank at Second Harvest. Emergency pantries, shelters, senior programs, and nonprofit daycare centers are some of its current feeding partners.
According to Greg Higgerson, vice president of development at Second Harvest, 732,000 different individuals received help in the last year alone. “Hunger is most directly linked to poverty,” said Higgerson. “The top issues affecting hunger remain unemployment, underemployment and wage and benefits issues.”
Every four years, Second Harvest participates in a national hunger study through Feeding America that provides local data for Central Florida. The largest hurdle it deals with is lack of awareness and action by the community. “There is plenty of food in our society — we are only limited by our ability to meet the growing expenses of distributing that food each year,” said Higgerson.
With an abundance of food and an extraordinary number of people who struggle to afford it, Second Harvest works to bridge the gap. Those who wish to get involved can participate by donating food or financial support, and volunteering within the organization.
Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida
FeedHopeNow.org | (407) 295-1066