Establishing Satellite Food Distribution Centers in Northeast Florida
FNEFL serves 8 counties in Northeast Florida, and getting food out quickly to food pantries in the region is one of the logistical challenges facing any regional food bank. Food donations must be weighed, sorted to ensure they are safe, then trucked and delivered to area food pantries.
Speeding up this process is exceedingly important when it comes to perishable food donations, which have a limited shelf life. However, many food pantries are not equipped with freezers or coolers that allow them to store perishable produce, meat and dairy products.
To solve this, FNEFL is identifying pantries throughout the region that can handle and store perishable goods to serve as satellite food distribution centers (SFDCs).
In October 2014, Barnabas Center, located in Fernandina Beach, became our agency’s first SFDC in the region. The nonprofit agency, which had coolers and freezers installed during its expansion of its facility earlier this year, provides food directly through the center and in coordination with other food pantries in Nassau County.
In December 2014, our second SFDC began operation at the Trinity Christian Family Worship Center in St. Johns County.
FNEFL is using grants to purchase commercial coolers and freezers for installation in other large-capacity food pantries in our service area.
Based on local findings from national nonprofit Feeding America’s 2014 Hunger in America report, of the estimated 281,000 people in FNEFL’s 8-county service area who turn to food pantries and meal service programs to feed themselves, 29 percent of them are children under the age of 18.
FNEFL worked with the Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) to develop a new program aimed at reaching those children. DCPS identified 107 of its 160 schools that had children who fit the economic criteria to receive supplemental food assistance.
In cooperation with DCPS, FNEFL created the SnackPack Program — which was launched in September 2014.
Now, students attending 40 Duval County Public Schools are receiving freshly-packed bundles of healthy snacks and fruits once a week.
We are currently delivering over 7,000 SnackPacks each month to children who live in homes without an adult who is able to provide meals on a consistent basis.
The children that receive a SnackPack are referred to us by guidance counselors and teachers and often arrive to school on Monday in the same clothes from Friday, are various ages and grades, and have very different methods of expressing their food insecurity —but they all have one thing in common- they are always hungry.
This kid-friendly pack is 5 pounds,created just for our younger friends and filled with pop-top canned fruits and meals, peanut butter, healthy cereal and trail mix bars, low-sodium crackers, soups, and always, a piece of fresh fruit.
SnackPacks are delivered each Friday to schools in four counties, from October through the end of the school year.
The Fridays before a school break (spring, holiday, summer) a larger pack, averaging eight pounds, is provided to help sustain thes students through the days where they have no school meals. The cost is $124 per child for a weekly delivered SnackPack.
The program grew from 17 schools to nearly 40 since it was launched, and more schools will be added as volunteers and funding are obtained to support its expansion.
It’s proven that hunger can affect the ability of students to focus and learn in the classroom, so this program can have a direct positive impact on a child’s capacity to concentrate and do well in school.
Kraft Feeding Possibilities Grant Initiative
In June 2014, FNEFL was awarded a Kraft Feeding Possibilities Grant through Feeding America.
This grant allowed us to provide strategically chosen partner agencies with freezers and/or refrigerators that allowed them to start or increase the amount of perishable/frozen foods that they could provide to the individuals and families they serve.
The agencies were chosen based on their location in areas of concentrated and increasing need, who were being held back by a distinct lack of equipment or specific resources. Agencies were able to pick up directly from donor grocery stores, which allowed the agency representatives to get to know those at the stores better, and offered donors the opportunity to meet with the agencies directly.
More importantly, it allowed for a better understanding of the population that is served with these donations. Often, grocery donors increased the amount of fresh food they were donating because they were able to grasp the importance of the program.
The agencies who benefited from this grant were St. Francis House, All People International, Calvary Baptist, First Coast SDA, The Worship Center, First Avenue Baptist, Baker County Ministers Association, Calc Foundation and Shiloh Baptist.
The grant was completed at the end of May 2015.
Reaching Seniors in Need
Of the estimated 281,000 people in 8 Northeast Florida Counties turn to food pantries and meal service programs to feed themselves and their families, 15 percent are seniors age 60 or older.
FNEFL is currently in the process of developing a food outreach program to assist senior citizens, which we plan to launch in 2016.