Food Insecurity: Setting the Table

Photo Credit: Feeding Northeast Florida

We recently hosted a forum to provide donors with an updated snapshot of what the current landscape of food insecurity looks like in Northeast Florida, and the role that philanthropy is playing in addressing solutions.

Speakers included:

Susan King, President & CEO of Feeding Northeast Florida (part of Feeding America)

Sunny Mulford, Co-Founder of Epic-Cure, a new nonprofit focused on eliminating food waste and hunger in St. Johns and Putnam counties

Mark LeMaire, Senior Program Director at The Community Foundation

Hosted by Joanne Cohen, JD, Vice President, Philanthropic Services at The Community Foundation

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Highlights from Susan King: Feeding Northeast Florida (FENF) is a Food Bank—we operate trucks and warehouses, employ drivers, and move food. Prior to COVID, we primarily rescued food that might otherwise be wasted. During COVID, we pivoted to a paid model where we focused on buying food, rescuing from grocery stores, manufacturing oversupply and local farms. We serve 250+ agencies throughout eight counties.

• It’s estimated that 330,000 people in our service area are food insecure since the pandemic started. More than 100,000 have never accessed food assistance before.

• Agencies are reporting about 60% of their clients have never sought food before and they are seeing a 200% increase in clients.

• Prior to COVID, we distributed 1-1.2 million pounds of food per month throughout our service area. Now, we are distributing more than 3 million pounds a month and are on our way to 4 million pounds of food per month.

• We also operate mobile food pantries—we were doing 40 mobile food pantries a month; now we are doing 48 mobile food pantries a week.

• Project Share: we were able to provide food to prepare meals by displaced restaurant workers. We were producing 5500 meals a day that went to senior facilities, home deliveries for agencies, etc. Partnered with Florida Blue to provide 300,000 meals and able to provide work for 78 restaurant workers. (over)

Highlights from Sunny Mulford:

• “The food is out there…it’s all a matter of storage, transportation and volunteers.”

• Started 18 months ago. 100% volunteer. Primarily in St. Johns County, expanding to Putnam County through partnership with Feeding Northeast Florida.

• Rescued 300,000 pounds of food in May and it has been increasing every month

• Demographic: 32% are children; 21% are elders; 15% with disabilities.

• 15 different set distributions every week: Mobile distributions, farmers market style, home deliveries, residents of Betty Griffin Center. Frozen meals and grocers to 100 seniors every Tuesday. Also support other agencies in town. Share with AmVets and VFW

Highlights from Mark LeMaire:

• TCF investments into food insecurity: from 2015 – 2019, investments totaled $460,000; so far this year, our investments are $380,000 • Supported by funds established by donors (safety net); field of interest funds; and by donors who contribute 1% of all new gifts to their Donor Advised Funds for The Community Endowment. • Our grants primarily go to: Relief (helping food pantry to purchase food, weekend backpacks, etc.) also infrastructure—funding capacity improvements (trucks, freezers, warehouses, consumer education, training, fuel). Also collaborations.

• Co-Investment with University of North Florida: Jacksonville Community Hunger Network. Completing the Hunger Map. This past year, in partnership with several fundholders, we provided $$ to help with a new Executive Director position.

• Epic Cure into Putnam County. FNEF and TCF helped Epic-Cure expand from St. Augustine into Putnam Co. Opening a new food distribution site in Palatka. Now Epic-Cure will have a dedicated site where FENF can deliver their product. Donors provided fuel and a truck. We helped with refrigeration. Now serving 400 families, and it’s not fully operational.

Watch the full video below…