When you are sick or the pantry is bare, it is hard to focus on living a healthy lifestyle. That’s why building a healthier community also means helping neighbors overcome the barriers that keep them in poor health. This may mean making sure needy families have access to health care services at school or hungry seniors are educated about their eligibility for food programs. Caring is an important part of a healthier community. How can you help?
The road to good health for some—young and old—is peppered with seemingly insurmountable obstacles like hunger.
But programs offered by local organizations such as the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida (SHFB) are going a long way to level the playing field and insure a healthier community for all.
Needy elementary school students enrolled in free and reduced school lunch programs have access to the SHFB’s Hi-Five Food Pack Program. The packs, which contain shelf stable food items, are designed to help children get adequate food when they are out of school.
Now available in some 23 Central Florida schools, the Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF) provides financial support for the program at Cheney, Dommerich, Lakemont and Lake Sybelia elementary schools serving children from Winter Park, Maitland and Eatonville. WPHF grant support will cover the distribution of an estimated 7,500 food packs to the local schools this year. WPHF also has worked with SHFB to help make sure the food pack items are as nutritious as possible.
Senior hunger, a less visible issue than childhood hunger–but just as critical, is getting more attention and prompted a local summit on the issue in 2013.
One solution has been the launch of “It’s a SNAP,” an initiative focused on enrolling needy seniors into SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps) if they qualify. Research has shown few seniors receive SNAP. WPHF provided grant support for the program to help identify and enroll eligible seniors in Winter Park, Maitland and Eatonville.
“The program is so important because hunger among older adults is an invisible issue, and yet nutrition is so important to healthy aging,” said Diana Silvey, WPHF Program Director, Older Adults.
WPHF also partners with SHFB, Orange County Public Schools Food and Nutrition Services Department and others to provide free food to families in need during an annual holiday food distribution event.
And in an effort to reach hungry adolescents at Glenridge and Maitland middle schools, the Winter Park 9th Grade Center and Winter Park High School, WPHF this school year approved a grant to supply and stock emergency snack cabinets with nutrition bars in school clinics. School nurses report many students arrive complaining of headaches, stomachaches and emotional issues that often are symptoms of hunger.
“We believe as we work to help local citizens overcome troubling health barriers like hunger, we are building a healthier community for all,” said Debbie Watson, WPHF Vice President.