Jacksonville, Fla. (Oct. 13, 2014) – With the expansion of its new facility at 1303 Jasmine St. in Fernandina Beach, Barnabas Center is working with Feeding Northeast Florida (FNEFL) to become the first in a series of satellite food distribution centers set up in Nassau County by Feeding Northeast Florida (FNEFL).
According to FNEFL President and CEO Bruce Ganger, plans are to equip more nonprofit food pantries throughout the 17 counties it serves with commercial-grade coolers and freezers to allow quicker distribution and staging of perishable produce, dairy and meat products to reach those facing hunger in Northeast Florida.
“Barnabas Center already has the capacity to store and distribute perishable foods and a wonderful infrastructure to do that,” Ganger said. “They also offer comprehensive health and social services, and this new system compliments that. In addition, it is centrally located and can easily serve as a distribution hub for smaller food pantries in the local area.”
According to Barnabas Center Executive Director Wanda Lanier, the nonprofit agency’s food pantry operations increased by 50 percent over last year – and the amount of perishable items being distributed make up the highest percentage of its food distribution.
“We saw a big spike in the numbers at the end of last year, and we’re now serving about 525 households a month, or about 1,700 individuals, out of our facility alone…and two-thirds of the households are headed by women,” Lanier said. “What’s good is that now about 75 percent of the food we distribute is fresh or frozen meats, produce ,dairy products and other perishable food and about 25 percent is canned and processed food, which is opposite of what it was three years ago. That means we’re getting more nutritious food out to people who need it – food that was once being thrown away because there was no way to store it.”
Barnabas Center also provides low cost health and dental care to lower income adults in the community, and Lanier adds that people suffering with diabetes and hypertension are benefitting by receiving healthier foods. The center also operates a teaching kitchen to help its clients learn to cook nutritious meals on a limited income.
Lanier said that, if trends continue, the center expects to distribute over 200,000 pounds of food to needy families this fiscal year – up from about 140,000 pounds last year.
Ganger says that financial donations from BJ’s Wholesale Club and C&S Wholesale Grocers, the organization that supports Winn Dixie’s distribution system, along with a private donation, has allowed Feeding Northeast Florida to order 12 one-, two- and three-door commercial-grade coolers and freezers to install at other satellite locations.
A satellite operation is getting under way at The Journey Church in Yulee to serve people in that area and western residents of Nassau County. FNEFL has also identified other future locations throughout Duval County.
“This is really the initial roll-out of a logistics system that makes it easier and safer for the eligible food pantries to distribute more fresh and prepared foods, since they won’t have to come to our Jacksonville distribution center for pick-ups,” Ganger said. “It also allows us to coordinate direct shipments from our center, and our retail grocer partners, out into the community more quickly.”
The Hunger in America Study, released last month by Feeding Northeast Florida and Feeding America, showed that an estimated 322,300 people in 17 Northeast Florida Counties turn to food pantries and meal service programs to feed themselves and their families. Of those, the study estimated that 29 percent are children under age 18 and 15 percent are seniors age 60 or older.
About Feeding Northeast Florida
Feeding Northeast Florida, founded in March 2014, provides food distribution service to more than 117 nonprofit, religious and charitable organizations and is part of Feeding America’s nationwide network of more than 200 food banks that lead the fight against hunger in the United States. Feeding Northeast Florida also supports programs that improve food security among the people it serves, educates the public about the problem of hunger, and advocates for legislation that protects people from going hungry. Individuals, charities, businesses and government all have a role in ending hunger. Donate. Volunteer. Advocate. Educate. Together we can solve hunger.
For more information, visit www.feedingnefl.org or contact 904-513-1333.
About Barnabas Center
Founded in 1986, Barnabas Center is a nonprofit agency that provides crisis assistance, health services and operates a food pantry to help those in need in Nassau County, primarily serving residents of Fernandina Beach, Hilliard, Yulee and Callahan. The agency assists about 5,000 residents a year. With 93 percent of its expenses spent directly on client assistance, it received a Top-4 ranking in operational effectiveness from Charity Navigator for eight consecutive years.
For more information, visit www.barnabasnassau.org or contact 904-261-7000.