On February 23, 2016, nearly 90 representatives from a variety of area food pantries participated in Second Harvest Food Bank’s First Annual Partner Network Conference. Harvesting the Future through Collaboration was a day-long program that featured ample opportunity for networking, sharing best practices, and learning from subject matter experts. Educational presentations were made by the Food Bank for New York City, the Edyth Bush Institute for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership, Second Harvest Food Bank and other community-based organizations.
The conference was funded as part of a three-year grant from the Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF) to build the capacity of food pantries that are part of Second Harvest’s distribution network. The $200,000 grant, co-funded equally through the WPHF Older Adults and Community Health focus areas, also provided much needed equipment, training, and nutrition education to forty-four agencies serving hungry residents from Winter Park, Maitland and Eatonville — WPHF’s catchment area.
Early evaluations collected from participants indicate the event was a big success. A sampling of the feedback included comments like, “Thank you for a day where my time was valued and I walked away inspired, more knowledgeable of content and of others doing similar work. Home Run!” and “Each session gave us data to use and understand in our organizations. This saves us time in starting new policies and helps us to grow.”
In the first six months of the grant, nearly $46,000 in equipment has been installed at nine area pantries. In the first quarter following installation, this investment fostered a 59% increase in the amount of fresh produce, dairy, meat or non-meat protein distributed when compared to the same time period in the prior year. Given this positive outcome, Second Harvest will be assessing other sites within WPHF’s catchment area to determine pantry readiness and equipment needs.
Nutrition education has likewise yielded strong results with 98% of individuals expressing interest in making healthier food choices or displaying increased knowledge of good nutrition.