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Robin Safley: Understanding the impact of Feeding Florida Network

This story was originally published February 20, 2024 in the Tallahassee Democrat

YOUR TURN: OPINION
Robin Safley

There are many things we can negotiate in life when we don’t have enough financial resources. 

Food is not one of those things.

Every person needs access to nutritious food, and they need it every day. This is true especially during vulnerable times.  We are fortunate here in the sunshine state to have access to locally grown and harvested foods that your mother would love you to eat. 

Merely having access to healthy options may not be enough for many struggling families – but access itself is an important component to helping people get back on their feet and to help ensure they remain (or can become) happy, healthy and a productive part of society. Once families have access to healthy food, we can then work with them, alongside our community partners, to ensure they have a step up and out of struggle into a life of self-sufficiency.

Feeding Florida’s food banks are doing everything we can to ensure this access continues.

At the heart of the Feeding Florida Network is a unique partnership with Florida’s farmers. It makes sense in our bountiful state to support our local agriculture and our state's food independence. With support from the state, we work closely with our agricultural community to source a fresh and diverse supply of Florida products.  Our growers don’t have to go that extra mile to harvest more product than they need for their retail/wholesale market, but they do – because it’s the right thing to do. And if we know anything about Florida agriculture, it’s that they are the backbone of our state, and they lead with their hearts and with unparalleled integrity. 

Being there daily to support the families who need us is vital; but we don’t stop there.  Our network takes our robust supply chain that moves upwards of 400 million pounds of food annually to step up and use these assets when a natural disaster hits, because it is the right thing to do.  The Feeding Florida Network’s systematic approach includes regular briefings with state Emergency Management teams, ensuring food banks are well-stocked with emergency supplies, and strategically placing state-owned essentials like water and meals-ready-to-eat (MREs) across Florida. 

Although feeding neighbors is at the heart of our mission, we can’t stop there either.  Helping the families that we serve access other tools that can put them on the road to self-sufficiency is critical.  Our state partnerships also expand to working closely with the Florida Department of Children and Families such as HOPE Florida, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Elder Affairs, and the Florida Department of Health in reaching and supporting their most vulnerable audiences. 

Because our food banks and agriculture relations teams are part of the community, living and working in the places we serve, we can provide resources to families facing job loss, parents caring for a sick child, and seniors unable to drive to their food pantry. It’s a commitment we all share to uphold the dignity and well-being of every Floridian. 

Joining hands with faith partners, community organizations, and health care providers is another way the Feeding Florida network extends its impact. With a network of nine Feeding America member food banks and over 2,400 community-based partner agencies, this collaboration is about reaching every corner of the community, ensuring no one is left behind. With the addition of mobile food pantries, our food banks are effectively able to go into food deserts and rural areas to provide fresh, healthy food to folks with limited access. Meeting people where they are, to best serve them, is key to making sure Florida’s families have what they need to thrive.

Working for Feeding Florida isn't just a job; serving the mission of fighting hunger is a true commitment. It's a privilege to be part of an organization that goes beyond charity, striving to create a more compassionate and resilient Florida for all. It's the right thing to do.

Robin Safley is the Executive Director of Feeding Florida.
 

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This story was originally published February 20, 2024 in the Tallahassee Democrat

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