PROACTION Intelligence for Bold and Proactive Philanthropy
FEEDING THE NEED more families
seek hunger relief
hunger studies coming healthy helping of data could feed solutions
The Magazine of
FOOD FOR THOUGHT A community cannot be said to have laid a proper foundation if it can count among its members even a few for whom the most basic needs are not being met. In our community, more than a few lack reliable access to adequate, nutritious food. Between Sarasota and DeSoto counties—the two counties served by All Faiths Food Bank—almost 60,000 people don’t always know where their next meal will come from. At least one in four of them is a child. Since the Great Recession hit, this need has grown dramatically, yet ignorance of its changing face persists, in part because of a simple lack of awareness. Here are some facts: About half of the people served by All Faiths have at least one working member in their family. Many are single parents struggling to raise their kids on one income. Seniors who count on the food bank often must choose between buying groceries or medication. In other words, the waitress who served your lunch might have lined up at a food pantry this morning to secure the meager makings of tonight’s meal for her own family. Her child, meanwhile, could have fallen further behind classmates because he was too worried about food at home to concentrate on math at school. If those kinds of images don’t break your heart, perhaps I can appeal to your head. Food insecurity costs our entire community, even those whose only mealtime worry is whether or not they can still get a reservation at their club. Sarasota County spends over $20 million annually on health and human service programs, yet the need for and cost of services continue to climb. Obesity and related health issues are epidemic, in large part because the cheapest, most easily accessible foods are also the worst kinds for us. Students who can’t focus because of food issues at home are more likely to require assistance long into the future. Now is the time to come together and invest, as a community, in a data-based, system-centric approach to hunger and nutrition. If we choose to do nothing, the long-term costs—both social and fiscal—will max out our tab, and competing regions will eat our lunch.
Cover image: ©iStock.com/Steve Debenport
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A CHALLENGE OF GROWING PROPORTIONS KEITH MONDA WINCES AT THE THOUGHT OF THIRD-GRADERS IN SARASOTA COUNTY WORRYING THAT FOOD WILL RUN OUT AT HOME BEFORE THEIR FAMILY CAN BUY MORE. Monda, who serves on the boards of Sarasota’s All Faiths Food Bank and the national nonprofit Feeding America, knows the stats on hunger better than most. Yet this new insight about extremely worried kids close to home, gained from a first-of-its-kind study of child hunger in our region commissioned by All Faiths, wrenches him. “These are children in our community—our kids,” says Monda. “How can we fully enjoy all of the benefits of our wonderful community knowing that kids are food insecure down the road?”
The new study, “On the Edge,” gathered information about issues of food and nutrition directly from the perspective of children. The analysis included 14 Title I schools—those with the highest percentages of students from low-income families—in Sarasota County. It also found that many kids realized they were eating poor-quality food at home because their families were running out of money. A twin study in DeSoto County, where all students are offered free breakfast and lunch, found even higher levels of worry and cheap foods at home, as well as food actually running out at home and kids having to eat less because of it. Both reports can be found online at AllFaithsFoodBank.org and GulfCoastCF.org. (For a preview, see page 4.) Spring 2014 Gulf Coast Community Foundation 1
obesity epidemic is falling hardest on the poor population, and it has to do with the kinds of food they’re eating.”
THE CHILD-HUNGER STUDY IS PART OF THE THREE-PRONGED RESEARCH COMPONENT OF CHEWING THE DATA “FEEDING HUNGRY FAMILIES,” a regional hunger and The opportunity for the food bank, meanwhile, lay in the nutrition initiative created by Gulf Coast Community quadrennial Hunger in America study conducted by Feeding Foundation in partnership with All Faiths Food Bank. The America, the nationwide network of food banks to which project grew from a mix of need and opportunity. All Faiths belongs. The Hunger Study, as it’s commonly known, All Faiths, the hub of the hunger-relief system in Sarasota is the largest of its kind and provides vital insights into and DeSoto counties, distributes food to those in need charitable food distribution and those who receive it. through 195 partner agencies and programs—other Participating in the latest installment would give All Faiths nonprofits, church pantries, schools, and more. Last year, it the statistically valid data to better understand and thereby distributed 7 million pounds, equating to 5.8 million meals. strengthen our region’s food system. The agency also runs nutrition-education programs that Gulf Coast partnered with All Faiths to fund the survey complement its food distribution. locally. Together, they decided to go two better, commissioning Frays in the safety net developed as the Great Recession the additional analysis of child hunger as well as creation dealt the food bank a double blow: Demand went up at the of an interactive online map of the food bank’s entire same time donations (financial and food) dove. Substantial distribution network and other food assistance. “The cuts in federal feeding programs have also meant less food magnitude of our operation astounds people,” says Frank. delivered to All Faiths by the feds and more strain on the food “With a fleet of nine trucks and a 20,000-square-foot bank as people try to supplement shrinking food assistance. warehouse, we provide food for the church pantry up the A common story from distribution sites went something like street, the meals served at a soup kitchen downtown, and this: The longer lines now included formerly regular donors— the food prepared at the local senior center.” The map construction workers, for example—who were queuing up to can be viewed now on the All Faiths and Gulf Coast websites; get food for their own families. the Hunger Study 2014 is due out this summer. Coupled with that growing supply-demand imbalance While the new local data on adult hunger that will be was the growing realization that obesity and related revealed in that study continues to be crunched, the food
conditions like diabetes have become epidemic—especially among those who qualify as “food insecure.” “Hunger and obesity are flip sides of the same coin,” says Sandra Frank, CEO of All Faiths. “Food-insecure people consume more high-carbohydrate, high-calorie, low-cost food—to stave off hunger.” When he spoke at a Gulf Coast lecture on the issue last year, healthy living guru Dr. Andrew Weil noted, “The
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bank already knows much about the challenges in our community. In 2012, one in five Sarasota County residents qualified for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits (formerly known as food stamps). One in two students in Sarasota’s public schools is eligible to receive free meals (income at or below $30,615 for a family of four) or reduced-price meals (income between that and $43,568 for a family of four), for which they can be charged no more than 40 cents.
KIDS’ MEALS Not that many years ago, the rate of Sarasota students eligible for free or reduced meals historically ran at about 33%, according to Beverly Girard, director of Food and Nutrition Services at the school district. “When the local economy started to erode, we suddenly saw large increases year to year,” she says. Girard is “happy to report we have leveled off.” But when it comes to accessing adequate, nutritious food beyond the school cafeteria, Girard says, “the issue of child hunger doesn’t just reside in poverty-stricken homes. Don’t ever, ever, ever judge a book by its cover.” The new child-hunger study seems to back that up. The researchers note that while poverty is a major contributor to food insecurity, it’s not the only one. Unemployment is now the stronger predictor, as job loss can lead a family not yet at the poverty threshold to deplete their resources and struggle to put food on the table. Single-parent homes or others barely making ends meet might also face food insecurity while technically living above the poverty line. Like the issue of homelessness, examined in our last PROACTION magazine, hunger today looks very different than it used to, and sometimes can’t be “seen” at all.
THE NEXT COURSE YET, WHILE THE FACES OF HUNGER AND HOMELESSNESS HAVE CHANGED, GULF COAST’S JON THAXTON POINTS OUT A DIFFERENCE: “WITH HOMELESSNESS, GETTING SOMEONE INTO A HOME CAN BE A SOLUTION. WITH FOOD, YOU’RE ALWAYS GOING TO HAVE TO EAT AGAIN IN EIGHT HOURS.” The observation underscores the need to ensure reliable access to adequate, healthy food throughout the community, along with the nutritional awareness that can promote good choices. The opposite could be costly. As a nation, we spend about $200 billion annually on problems related to food security, including $100 billion on direct food assistance and an estimated $90 billion in indirect costs such as medical care and lost productivity and educational attainment. A 2009 study also suggests that food insecurity adds to increased special-needs education, to the tune of tens of billions of dollars more. While data from the Hunger Study 2014 won’t arrive till summer, All Faiths Food Bank knows it can expect something else then too if it doesn’t act now: an empty warehouse. Last year, the food bank’s shelves were nearly bare by September, damage from a perfect storm of growing demand, decreased donations and federal food deliveries, and departure of snowbirds who might give and volunteer only while they’re here. “With our seasonal employment, incomes drop over the summer and more families turn to the food bank for support,” notes Frank. “We want to raise awareness among our seasonal residents that hunger has no season. When they leave, incomes diminish and the demand for food actually increases.”
Hunger and Nutrition Facts
Helpful definitions and descriptions Food Security Access by all household members at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. Food Insecurity Limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways. Food Desert Low-income urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. Title I Schools Title I, Part A, of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act provides funding to districts and schools with high percentages of children from low-income families to help ensure that all children meet state academic standards.
Sarasota County Schools directs this assistance to elementary schools where more than 62% of students qualify for free or reduced-price meals and other schools where 75% qualify.
Sources: USDA Economic Research Service; Sarasota County Schools
“The issue of child hunger doesn’t just reside in poverty-stricken homes. Don’t ever, ever, ever judge a book by its cover.” —Beverly Girard, Sarasota County Schools Food and Nutrition Services
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ANOTHER TROUBLING FACTOR IS THE APPARENT MEAL GAP FOR KIDS DURING THE SUMMER. While about 21,000 children in Sarasota County alone get daily meals during the school year—and many take home food-filled backpacks for the weekend thanks to All Faiths and other programs—fewer than 5,000 participated in school district–aligned summer feeding programs last year. “What happens to the other 16,000?” asks food bank board member Monda. The uncertainty about what and how much these children get to eat when school’s out is enough to turn the stomachs of those charged with feeding food-insecure families. That’s why Frank, Monda, and others at All Faiths are gearing up for an unprecedented campaign against summer hunger this year.
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show the most severe food insecurity, based on student responses (though the researchers urge caution in interpreting data for Atwater and Wilkinson because of moderate student response size)
The researchers’ preliminary recommendations include: • Provide more nutrition education for students, teachers, parents, and guardians • Improve access to fresh, nutritious foods and supermarket outlets • Support strategic expansion of food nutrition programs; develop targeted
approaches while maximizing community-wide return on investment • Increase student resilience and coping strategies regarding individual, family, and community hunger • Focus on prevention • Develop neighborhood and regional approaches that affect a critical mass Go to AllFaithsFoodBank.org or to GulfCoastCF.org for the full reports.
CHILDREN ON THE EDGE A new pair of child-hunger studies in Sarasota and DeSoto counties found “alarming numbers of children in poverty…who fall into the category of food insecurity without hunger.” In layman’s terms, they lack regular access to enough nutritious food for a healthy life, though aren’t necessarily dealing with ongoing pain caused by lack of food intake (i.e., hunger). Based on this data plus trends in food insecurity and national cuts in hunger prevention, the researchers say “these children are on the brink of falling into higher levels of food insecurity.” While the study reports weren’t finalized at press time, here are some key insights from the Sarasota County study: • Issues of food insecurity seem to be more severe for African Americans and Hispanics compared with other ethnic and racial groups • Upper high school and elementary school grade levels showed the highest levels of food insecurity • Elementary schools Atwater in North Port and Alta Vista and Wilkinson in Sarasota seemed to
Commencing April 1—with a strong message that hunger is no joke—and running through the National Letter Carriers Food Drive on May 10, the CASH & Cans campaign will raise food and funds to shore up the food bank’s summer supply. (“CASH” stands for Campaign Against Summer Hunger as well as a reminder that money is needed too.) Just as important will be the hard work that All Faiths and its partners do in the next few months to build a better system for distributing that food, this summer and beyond. No ideas from the community are off the table. “We live in a caring, compassionate community, but I’m reasonably certain most people are not aware of the extent of the problem,” says Frank. “Hunger is within walking distance of our homes. When people know about it, they want to do something about it.”
ONE IN FIVE
CHILDREN IN SARASOTA COUNTY 2007– 08
SARASOTA COUNTY STUDENTS 21.5%
ELIGIBLE FOR FREE/REDUCED
MEAL BENEFITS Sarasota County Schools Food and Nutrition Services
2008– 2009– 2010– 09 10 11
*As of February 4, 2014
SARASOTA COUNTY POPULATION
LIVING BELOW POVERTY
income of $23,200 or less for a family of four
“It’s not just about providing calories to people who are hungry. It’s really about providing the right kinds of calories and the right kinds of nutrition.” —Dr. Andrew Weil, Sarasota, February 11, 2013
20,765 STUDENTS qualified for
free/reduced meals in 2012–13
Thank God for Mondays.
This food covers a real need that I haven’t been able to cover sufficiently for myself. Healthwise, it’s just what the doctor has actually ordered for some time, saying that I’m not getting the nutrition I need from my food.
LIVES BELOW THE
I’m sooo thankful. Thank God for Mondays. —Katherine All Faiths Food Bank client
Spring 2014 Gulf Coast Community Foundation 5
“SPROUT” TAKES ROUTE
On a recent morning, Ryan Beaman grabbed sliced mangoes and bags of clementines from plastic bins and placed them at the front of steel display shelves before the next “shopper” came through. The shelves, which flipped down from the walls of the refrigerated box truck, held a dozen different types of fresh fruits and vegetables. Like a grocery retailer, Ryan rotated the product and displayed it to meet customers’ eyes. But the tactic also helped trim the time it took for people to get on and off the truck with their selections. Ryan manages the Sprout Mobile Farm Market, a brand-new program of All Faiths Food Bank and an exciting model for “food banking” in the 21st century. Sprout delivers fresh produce along with nutrition education to underserved areas of our community. With help from the host agencies that partner with All Faiths, clients receive vouchers and then climb onto the truck to select the seasonal produce they’ll take home. (For those with mobility issues, volunteers fill the orders.) Beside the truck, the food bank’s nutrition education director whips up a healthy, balanced meal at a “tasting table,” where clients can also grab the recipe and the ingredients to make it at home. On this day at a South Venice church, a young woman asks Ryan if the fresh green beans simply need to be cooked in water. He starts to explain how long they’ll keep in a fridge, but she interrupts—“That’s OK, we’re at a campground”—so he advises her how to best preserve and cook the beans in her situation. Other offerings (90 percent of the food is donated) include tomatoes, broccoli, whole papayas, and mixed fruit. The
calabaza, a pumpkin-like squash, draws questions from customers and volunteers alike; one client shares her own recipe, complete with drizzled honey, which Ryan says he plans to borrow. A 12-week pilot program at six sites in Sarasota County finishes in mid-April. The food bank will use lessons learned to enhance the program and expand its routes. “This is awesome what they’re doing here,” says a man named Kelly, another client and sometime volunteer at the church. “It relieves a lot of pressure on the people in there.” To read about Sprout in action, go to GulfCoastCF.org and search “Sprout.”
SEEDING A CHANGE
refrigerated box truck. Meanwhile, Yacht Club members—who Nemser says “enjoy a good life”—had begun to look at the need in a different light. “We started talking about the people who make the life here so good,” he says. “The grocery clerk who makes minimum wage and probably works two jobs. The cashier at the department store. If that’s the kind of money you have, how do you set your priorities?” Other donors hopped aboard the effort, and the Yacht Club foundation’s $30,000 grant seeded a project totaling over $200,000 for the custom truck and the program’s operation. For the club and its foundation, the process was a unifying and profound education. “Having talked about the issue, people really understood and rallied around it,” says Nemser. “It speaks to the generosity of the membership.”
Some generous members of the Venice Yacht Club had no idea how many folks in their community, including kids, don’t get enough food to eat. “The statistics are mind-boggling,” says Michael Nemser, past chair of the club’s charitable foundation, “particularly that 50% of school-age children and 80% of single-parent households are on food assistance. A lot of our members couldn’t put their arms around it.” Last year, the group worked with Gulf Coast’s Veronica Brady to understand how they might collectively help meet that need. They learned that All Faiths Food Bank sought funding for a producedelivery van, and the concept of Sprout shifted into first gear. Further food bank research revealed the extent of the need Sprout would be trying to fill, and the plan grew—from minivan to 24-foot
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Sprout delivers fresh produce along with nutrition education to underserved areas of our community.
What’s the best tool to lift a commercial-grade freezer? Members of Gulf Coast’s Hunger Design Team might tell you it’s “leverage.” This small group of donors has contributed money and brain power to help Gulf Coast peel away the layers to better understand hunger and nutrition in our region and find and fund the best solutions. One of their first tactical investments increased the capacity of local agencies to provide fresh, healthy produce, dairy, and meat. Early work showed that insufficient cold storage hampered the ability to get more of these vital proteins, fruits, and veggies to people in local “food deserts.” So the team helped identify where new cooling units would have the greatest impact. But rather than buy the units outright, the plan was combined into a larger, collaborative matching grant application that included community garden improvements, produce delivery, and
HOW TO HELP
When results of the Hunger in America 2014 study arrive this summer, community partners will analyze the data along with other local research to map out plans for strategically improving our food system. Meanwhile, much can be done right now to advance that objective and help feed individuals and families in our community who are hungry for adequate, nutritious food.
All donations are welcome. Proteins are most needed—peanut butter and canned poultry, meat, and fish. Drop off nonperishables at Sarasota County Goodwill stores and fire stations. • Host a food drive. Learn how at AllFaithsFoodBank.org. • Empty your pantry before heading north. • Join the CASH & Cans campaign at SkipALunch.org. •
The food bank’s buying power means monetary donations have the biggest direct impact. Your gift at AllFaithsFoodBank.org will support the programs and opperations of All Faiths. • Gifts to Gulf Coast’s Feeding Hungry Families initiative will leverage others to fill gaps now and fund systems change for good. •
The food bank relies on over 3,000 volunteers a year. Volunteers are especially needed for child nutrition- education programs. • Visit YoudBePerfectForThis.org and search “hunger” or “food” for more service opportunities. •
more. The successful effort leveraged a relatively small investment from the Hunger Design Team into a $200,000-plus menu of projects that are infusing nutrition and sustainability into the local food system. “Freezers may seem like an insignificant part of what our food pantry does, but in fact we are much more capable of maximizing the overall reach of the goods,” says Matthew Minor of Harvest House Transitional Centers, one of 12 agencies to get new units. “They will make an exponential impact on those in our community most in need.”
Learn and Advocate
Read the child hunger study at GulfCoastCF.org and look for the adult hunger study this summer. • Follow @GulfCoastCF and All Faiths Food Bank on social media for action updates. • View Dr. Andrew Weil’s suggestions from his 2013 talk in Sarasota (video at GulfCoastCF.org). •
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Here’s the latest on just a few other items on Gulf Coast’s agenda for action. Visit GulfCoastCF.org/news for more news from the front.
PROACTION Intelligence for Bold and Proactive Philanthropy
HOME(LESSNESS) IS WHERE THE HEART IS WITH COMMUNITY FOCUSED ON ISSUE, IT’S TIME TO ACT
The Magazine of
UPDATE ON HOMELESSNESS
Momentum on homelessness in Sarasota County has built since our first issue of PROACTION. Consultant Robert Marbut’s analysis of service gaps and recommended action plan were widely received with eagerness to move forward. His 12 recommendations—unanimously accepted by the county and its municipalities—include key roles for Gulf Coast, specifically as lead convening and support agency for providers that help children and families. Gulf Coast continues to gather these agencies monthly, and we engaged a data and case-management expert to help transform their data tracking into a proactive case-management tool. We’re working with faith congregations to bring a program called Family Promise, which provides wraparound support to homeless families, to southern Sarasota County. Gulf Coast is also working on family-intake portals at both ends of the county and development of a master case-management system.
It’s not only students learning from the TechActive Classrooms that Gulf Coast and several donors have helped install across Sarasota County middle schools. In January, education administrators from Baltimore, D.C., Chicago, and the state of Maryland visited Sarasota to see the technology-loaded classrooms, funded in part through our STEMsmart initiative, in action. A Maryland official said that two districts from her state “are looking to make significant changes in teaching and learning as a result of what we learned from you.” Meanwhile, an anonymous Gulf Coast donor has put up a matching challenge gift to fund conversion of the rest of the county’s middle-school science and math classrooms. To learn more about donating, contact us. To see the classrooms in action, go to STEMsmart.org.
BUILDING OUR WORKFORCE
CareerEdge, the workforce-development collaborative that Gulf Coast helped create a few years ago with partners like the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, continues to transform workforce training, and individual lives. In June, the first class of precision machinists will graduate from Sarasota County Technical Institute. The new program was created as a direct result of research by CareerEdge, which says these in-demand professionals could be earning $80,000 or $90,000 in less than a decade. Like STEMsmart, SCTI’s new machining lab has drawn visitors from across the state. And CareerEdge itself is hosting folks looking to learn from its successes as it welcomes the Partners Council of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions to Sarasota for its annual meeting in March.
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NEWS FROM THE FRONT
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DONATE CASH. Dollars can have the biggest direct impact thanks to the food bank’s buying power.
DONATE CANS. Empty your pantry before you leave
town. Bring canned goods to Sarasota County Goodwill stores or fire stations. Or host a food collection at your location.
BECOME A PARTNER.
Spread the word through your network. Sponsor a food and fund drive. Your business or club can even “own a day” and get special recognition.
Help feed this campaign—and our children.
April 1 – May 10, 2014. Visit SkipALunch.org to help.
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