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New Food Bank Organization Aims To Combat Hunger On The First Coast

Feeding America

There will soon be an important shift in the way emergency food is distributed to the First Coast's hungry and food insecure.

Feeding America, the national network of food banks, will take over a warehouse on the city’s Westside to meet increased food demand in our 17 county area.

In January the national food distribution network ended its contract with Lutheran Social Services, which ran the city’s Second Harvest Food Bank, and is now engaged in putting together a brand new system for getting food out to the hungry and food insecure on the First Coast.
Lutheran Social Services plans continue to help feed the hungry without the Feeding America contract.

Feeding America is partnering with Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida for a new distribution network known as Feeding Northeast Florida.

Bruce Ganger, the former head of Lutheran Social Services's food bank, will be in charge of Feeding Northeast Florida. He joined Melissa Ross to discuss the issue of hunger on the First Coast and how this new effort will affect emergency food services.

Ganger said the new organization stems from Feeding America looking to increase the amount of food disbursed in the area, a prospect that was prevented by inadequate funding under the system already in place.

"The studies that had been done across the 17 counties showed that in order to meet the need in the community... we needed to be sourcing and distributing about 40 million pounds of food," he said.

"Last year did just about 23,000,000 pounds of food, so still quite a ways to go."

As the new network moves into place, Feeding America plans to prevent a disruption in services by partnering with the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, the largest food bank in the state of Florida. Ganger said that the partnership will allow them to learn from what has worked well in similar metropolitan, suburban and rural areas. 

Studies show that one in six adults and one in four children in the area are either actively hungry or don't know where their next meal will come from.

"About 350,000 people across the community on any given day would not have access to and availability of food," said Ganger.

The profile of those affected has changed since the 2008 recession, he said, with working families making up 40 percent of the people who received food from local organizations.

"There really is no one demographic. You can't just say that it's the person at the end of the off-ramp at I-95 with a cardboard sign that says, 'Will work for food'," said Ganger.

"It's people you sit next to in church, it's somebody that fixed your cup of coffee on the way in this morning. It's folks just like you and I that, there but for the grace of God, find themselves in the situation where they're not sure they can put food on the table."

You can follow Melissa Ross on Twitter @MelissainJax.