Orlando, FL

Second Harvest: Stepping up to Close the Childhood Hunger Gap in Orlando

Gayle Kurtzer-Meyers

Second HarvestPhoto Source: Flickr

Childhood hunger in Orlando

There's nothing like enjoying a well-prepared meal. Unfortunately, some parents are unable to feed their children regularly. With so many people in Orlando, Florida, unsure about where their next meal will come from, organizations like Second Harvest Food Bank are stepping up to the plate to help residents in need.

Due to the pandemic, Orlando citizens are having an even harder time making ends meet. This Orange County organization devotes its time and resources to narrowing the hunger gap and helping underprivileged people meet their daily nutritional requirements.

"There is no finer investment for any community than putting milk into babies." -Sir Winston Churchill-

The History of Second Harvest

Back in 1983, Dan Harney and Tom Fuentes noticed that a portion of their community was overwhelmed with hungry people. So, they came together and created a food bank that distributes food to underprivileged families in one of the City of Orange's former fruit packing facilities. This organization is a part of the nationwide network Feeding America.

As the need increased, the organization realized it had no choice but to expand. So, they relocated to a former army base in 2007, allowing them to double their efforts. Five years later, they officially became a non for profit organization. Not only were they able to help reduce residential childhood hunger, but they're also working with hundreds of businesses and food manufacturers to end hunger sustainably.

Fulfilling their mission

Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida distributes healthy meals to six different counties. It is especially beneficial for families that deal with natural disasters and financial constraints. This Orlando Feeding America affiliate has a myriad of subdivisions that all align with CDC guidelines.

For example, when the pandemic hit, they put more workforce into programs like a Spoon for Hope, which is their healthy food production line. They also employ individuals to perform catering duties and increase community outreach. If necessary, community members in need can even have meals delivered to their doorstep.

Children benefitting from food program/Photo by Katerina Holmes from Pexels

For a large portion of the day, children are in school. However, their lack of nourishment makes it difficult for them to focus, leading to a decline in their education. Feeding America realized the correlation between poor school performance and childhood hunger, so they created various programs to feed as many children as possible.

Currently, childhood hunger impacts roughly 20 percent of kids in Central Florida. To ensure the most vulnerable people in our communities have access to regular meals, the food bank and their partners created the Kids Cafe, which delivers food to after-school programs five days a week to children in the Orange, Seminole, and Osceola counties. The Kids Cafe program is also available in the summer months for elementary-aged children who may not have access to meals when school ends.

The aid for children does not stop there. After realizing that some children didn't have meals over the weekend, educators spoke to their local food bank and created a program called Kids Packs. This program provides weekend meals to children in the free and reduced lunch programs. Typical program items include fresh produce as well as nutritious meals and snacks.

The School Market Program collaborates between non for profits and local middle and high schools working to combat teenage hunger. In addition, eliminating the stigma that discourages teens, a simple open registration process encourages teens to participate without the usual stigma that teens often experience.

Food Bank VolunteersPhoto by cottonbro from Pexels

How to get involved

As long as children are hungry, our mission can always use more help. As a non for profit organization, volunteers and donations help expedite the efforts. Since its inception, the Central Florida branch of Feeding America has donated over 418 million pounds of food to families in need.

One of the many ways to get involved is to make a financial donation. Every dollar you donate to the organization provides four meals for people in the community. The central location on Mercy Drive accepts food donations.

Keep in mind; the facility is closed on Sundays. Please bring your food donations through the main entrance between 8 and 4 pm Monday through Saturday. Residents that live closer to the Lake-Maitland Civic Center and have smaller gifts can drop them off at this location. Be sure to call before visiting so you can confirm someone is there to accept your donation. Leaving donations outdoors is prohibited.

If you want to volunteer, you can be as young as ten with an adult chaperone present. Otherwise, volunteers must be 18 years and older. For volunteering opportunities in Orlando, Florida, you can visit the online volunteer management website and choose the shifts that best fit your schedule. If you want to volunteer as a group, have special needs, or a physical handicap, just put in your request, and a coordinator will confirm.

In addition to making financial donations and volunteering your time, attending events and food drives are another way to help children in need. If organizing events is your passion, there are resources available to help you plan one.

As the saying goes, children are our future. It's up to us as a community to continue closing the hunger gap, especially for children who can't feed themselves.

"If we can conquer space, we can conquer childhood hunger." -Buzz Aldrin-

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I am a Licensed Community Association Manager for the State of Florida and a published author. My top articles are about Florida RE, property management, and the many beautiful venues and activities available in the Sunshine State. Thank you for reading my work and joining me on the journey.

Kissimmee, FL

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