JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Feeding Northeast Florida distributed more than 30 million pounds of food in 2020. That is an 82% increase from 2019.
The non-profit and its partner agencies stepped up to meet the increasing demand and help people impacted by the pandemic.
“We work through agency partners, and they have been reporting as much as a 100 percent to 200 percent increase over the course of these last few months since March,” said Susan King, President and CEO of Feeding Northeast Florida.
At the beginning of the pandemic, King said the non-profit had to adjust its grocery recovery process.
“We saw at the food bank what we all saw in our own grocery stores, that those shelves that were suddenly bare were reflected in our trucks that were suddenly bare because we deal primarily in grocery recovery. What we pick up from grocery stores that might be wasted,” explained King. “As a logistics and distribution business that’s really the heart of what we do is get food from where it is to where it needs to be. It was a struggle, that highly used word pivoting, we certainly did that repeatedly. We got out early, in front of a lot of the supply chain issues, and started ordering truckloads of shelf-stable food.”
King told News4Jax the non-profit has been able to keep up with the increasing demand thanks to grants and the generosity of businesses and people in the community.
“A lot of people who are first-time donors to our organization who have really said, hunger is not acceptable in our community, it is a problem we can solve,” explained King. “They have partnered with us to do this to be able to buy the food that is needed, to be able to rent the trucks, keep them full of gas, and for the drivers to be on those routes. It’s been inspiring.”
The pandemic is still impacting people in Northeast Florida in 2021. King said there is an overall steady increase of people who need food assistance and 4 out of 10 of those people have never asked for assistance before.
“These are people who even now have jobs but there’s a reduction in hours, or they went a period of time without employment and it’s hard to make up for that, for people who are living paycheck to paycheck,” explained King.
In celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Feeding Northeast Florida has several volunteer opportunities. There are two mobile food distributions on Monday.
The organization is also allowing people to write an encouraging letter to those in need or reach out to lawmakers about food insecurity and the impact of the pandemic in our community.
Looking ahead to 2021, Feeding Northeast Florida is looking for volunteers. To donate your time or monetarily, visit https://www.feedingnefl.org/.