Citing ongoing efficiency improvements throughout its first year, Feeding Northeast Florida (FNEFL) reported this month that it has distributed 17.8 million pounds of food to 176 member food pantries in 17 counties over its first 12 months — representing 14.8 million meals.
Since beginning operations as an affiliate food bank of Feeding America in June 2014, FNEFL has sourced a total of 18.7 million pounds of food throughout the region.
The community service/food distribution organization has also shown steady increases in the pounds of food moved into the community in each quarter of operations — from 3.1 million pounds the third quarter of 2014 to 4.5 million pounds during the second quarter of 2015.
“We’re very pleased with the results the management and staff at Feeding Northeast Florida have been able to achieve in a relatively short period of time,” said FNEFL Board Chairman Chuck Wyckoff. “During a tour of our distribution facility, representatives from Feeding America gave our food bank very high marks for the cost-effective and efficient food distribution network it has created in our region.”
By building its business model based on those facing hunger back to the food distribution network, FNEFL President and CEO Bruce Ganger says the logistical operation is focused on distributing the food rather than warehousing it.
As part of that focus, FNEFL has established satellite distribution centers at larger food pantries in Nassau, St. Johns and Duval counties — training their staffs on food safety so they can take direct delivery of rescued food from grocery partners. More satellite centers are planned for Putnam, Clay and Bradford counties in 2015 — including the Beaches Community Food Bank, which will be housed at 7North center in Jacksonville Beach being spearheaded by Beach Church.
FNEFL has also established four-to-five large-scale food distribution events in the community each week, along with its ‘SnackPack Wednesdays’ program for students at eight Duval County Public Schools to help address child hunger in the area. Along with EdlerSource and other community groups, FNEFL also began targeting seniors who face food insecurity — a difficult-to-reach segment of the population.
Overall, it’s estimated that one-in-six people in 17 northeast Florida counties are food insecure, with one-in-four 18 years old or younger. Also, nearly half of those who face hunger are part of working families who have trouble making ends meet.
“We couldn’t have made these accomplishments in our first year without the strong support from volunteers, donors and our grocery partners,” Ganger said. “With the community’s continued volunteer and financial support, I know we can eliminate hunger in Northeast Florida. There’s enough rescued food to do it now…it’s just a question of moving the food from where it is to those families who need it.”
Based on a study conducted by Feeding America in 2014, about 322,000 people in 17 Northeast Florida counties rely on the FNEFL food distribution network to supplement their individual and family food needs. FNEFL estimates that 40 million pounds of rescued food would need to be sourced, inspected and distributed through their network to reach all the food insecure families in Northeast Florida.
“There’s no question there’s enough food out there to solve this problem,” Ganger said. “It’s a question of distribution. If the community can support us, with contributions and through volunteer efforts, to the point that we can double the amount of food we can rescue, sort and distribute out to the people who need it, we can really solve this problem.
To donate, volunteer or find out more about eliminating hunger in Northeast Florida, visit www.feedingnefl.org or contact 904-513-1333.