Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida (SHFB) has been awarded a $200,000, three-year grant from the Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF) to increase the amount of nutritious food reaching food insecure people using food pantries in the Winter Park, Maitland and Eatonville area.
Called the Partner Agency Benefit Program, the grant-supported program is multi-faceted and will first provide refrigerators, freezers and other equipment to up to 44 food pantries in the area to enable them to distribute fresh produce, fresh protein, and dairy products.
The impetus for the program came from the high chronic disease and obesity rates of SHFB clients, many of whom live in food deserts without access to a full service grocery store located within one mile of home. In addition, the 2014 Central Florida Faces of Hunger, a study conducted locally in conjunction with Feeding America’s national study, revealed that 34% of the Orange County partner agencies did not have the storage and handling capacity to distribute healthier foods to their clients. This created a back-log of food that SHFB was able to accept but that the agencies could not distribute.
New equipment will increase the agencies’ immediate capacity, however the program is intended to further expand capacity by providing the agencies with training on fundraising, strategic planning and overall agency administration.
The University of Central Florida and Rollins College Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership Center will provide targeted training for agencies to expand their capacity, both in terms of knowledge attainment, practical application and networking opportunities. A 2014 survey of the partner agencies showed that they are most interested in volunteer management, fundraising and nutrition education.
In addition, the program will support networking and coordination among the agencies so they can share ideas on how to best help the local community, and it will allow Second Harvest to develop a conference providing agencies a place to discuss challenges and possible solutions.
Lastly, the program will provide nutrition education and cooking demonstrations for the staff and clients at the food pantries to increase their knowledge of healthy foods.
The program kicked off in June and is expected to serve at least 5,000 residents through nutrition education alone.