People needing food assistance in Central Florida highest ever
By Brian McBride
With more people in Central Florida needing food assistance than ever, according to Second Harvest Food Bank, the nonprofit partnered with Advance Senior Center to help needy Kissimmee residents with a drive-through food pantry on Thursday.
Advance Senior Center Executive Director Norberto Fonseca, who runs a food pantry, said he has seen the need spike to three times the normal rate at the pantry. So, he reached out to Second Harvest, which sprang into action. Fonseca helped recruit 100 volunteers for the event.
“Thanks to the community, we always have different organizations working together to make this happen,” Norberto said.
The event was held at Centro Cristiano El Pan De Vida Church, 152 Oakwood Drive, Kissimmee, because the center didn’t have enough space to accommodate so many people.
Second Harvest spokeswoman Erika Spence said the event would feed about 550 families.
“What we are seeing and experiencing is a 49 percent increase in the number of people seeking food assistance,” she said. “This is higher than anything we ever experienced during the Great Recession."
According to its website, Second Harvest is driven to close the gap of unmet need in Central Florida in a variety of effective ways. It’s mission is to create hope and nourish lives through a powerful hunger relief network.
The food recipients learned of the event through local food pantries, Advance Senior Center and the church. There was frozen meat, fresh produce, milk, eggs and some food pantry staples.
“Basically everything you need to stock your fridge and your pantry and have the healthy food that you need,” Spence said.
Map the Meal Gap 2019 is a detailed analysis of food insecurity in every county and congressional district in the United States, and the only study that provides local-level estimates of food insecurity across the country.
Food insecurity refers to U.S. Department of Agriculture’s measure of lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods. Food-insecure households are not necessarily food insecure all the time. Food insecurity may reflect a household’s need to make trade-offs between important basic needs, such as housing or medical bills, and purchasing nutritionally adequate foods.
The study recently found that one in seven people in Central Florida struggle with hunger. Almost half a million people in Central Florida don’t know when or where their next meal will come.
The report also shows that 143,000 children in Central Florida are food insecure.
Being food insecure at any age can be harmful, but it can be devastating for children. It can stunt their growth, affect their ability to learn and forces them to withdraw from social interaction.
If you are in need of food, you can go to Second Harvest’s website www.feedhopenow.org and go to the food-finder tool. You can enter your address or ZIP code and the website will list all the food pantries closest to you.