Second Harvest-The Orlando Times
Hunger Doesn’t Take A Holiday
ORANGE COUNTY - As students return to classes after a two-week break, not many consider that those who rely on the school’s free and reduced meal program could face difficulties during this time. Sadly, one in five children are at risk of going to bed hungry tonight. When school’s out, they may not be getting the nutrients they need to succeed in class. That’s where the partnership between the Orange County school district and Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida comes into play.
“About 1 in 7 individuals, being in the six counties that we serve, are considered food insecure. What that means is not necessarily that they don’t have food but they don’t have enough food,” said Dan Samuels, Director of Philanthropy at Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. “We find it to be our role, as a food bank, to be able to partner with the community to ensure that families who need that help and are asking for that help has access to the supports they need.”
Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida and Orange County Public Schools recently united to deliver hope for the holidays. During the 10th annual holiday food drop on Sat., Dec. 14, volunteers gathered at six different locations to distribute a variety of non-perishable food items along with a whole turkey and fresh produce.
1,726 households, that’s a total of 7,215 people-including 3,944 children received food during the drop.
“I think it was incredibly successful,” said Samuels. “All of those families walked away with a whole turkey, fresh produce, and nonperishable food items. I would call this a huge success in the fact that we were able to put food in the hands of community members who really needed that support this time of the year.”
In addition to Evans High, the drop took place at Dream Lake Elementary, Forsyth Woods Elementary, Ivey Lane Elementary, Rock Lake Elementary, and Wind Guard Elementary.
The schools were chosen by OCPS since they have high rates of free and reduced lunch. And they have high rates of need from the families for this type of support.
They expressed a big thank –you to their partners: Costco, Florida United Methodist Church of Orlando, Red Nose Day, and Universal Orlando Resort, who helped fund the recent food drop.
“Hunger and the need for food is really a year round problem, especially for kids,” said Samuels. “A lot of families-depending on the county- its somewhere between 40-70 percent of kids are on that free or reduced lunch program. What happens when those kids are out of school and don’t have access to those meals? Now all of a sudden the burden of that falls onto their families. That’s why we do partnerships like this is to help those families get over those hurdles.”
In addition to the holiday breaks, Second Harvest has the Summer Food Service program. They prepare, package and distribute nutritious meals and snacks free of charge to kids and teens ages 18 and under. This past summer they provided 258,293 breakfasts, lunches and snacks to 113 sites in Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Brevard, Volusia, and Lake Counties.
“More than 60% of Central Florida kids qualify for free or reduced lunch, only about 9% of those kids participate in a summer meal program. That is too many kids at risk of being hungry and not having the adequate nutrition they need,” says their website. “Since the program began in 2008, Second Harvest has provided more than one million summer meals to kids in our community.”
Through the help of their partners, Second Harvest also provides other programs such as Kids Café and Kid Snack Packs that feed children after school and on the weekends, as well as The School Market Program which provides free snacks and meal items for middle and high school students.
The food bank distributes through a network of about 550 other nonprofits. For those interested, distribution locations can be found on their website www.feedhopenow.org. They have a ‘food finder’ that allows people use their zip code to find the closest place to find food. Food Drop events are usually advertised through their feeding partners.
As for those interested in volunteering, information is also found on their website www.feedhopenow.org. Potential volunteers can fill out the online form. There may be some qualifications depending on the job and shift type.
Their website also has a list of the most needed nonperishable food items, and they accept donations at their warehouse.