Two elderly women at a food pantry
March 22, 2016
by Karen Broussard

A simple email or phone call can have unimagined power. I had never heard of Enroll America (EA) when I received an invitation from Feeding America to learn about the organization that was assisting thousands of low-income people with their health insurance enrollment through the Affordable Care Act. Fast forward to a meeting with the local EA coordinator, and Feeding America member Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida and its network of food pantries and meal programs was able to spread the word about the availability of health insurance coverage to tens of thousands of low-income and poverty-level individuals and households. In a matter of just a few days, information about who, how and when to contact a health navigator about enrollment assistance had found its way into the hands of a broad swath of the community in great need – a need that stretches far beyond just food.

The mothers, fathers, grands, aunts, uncles, sibs and kids served by the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida network of partner agencies are people who usually live with more than just the stress of hunger. They live with constant corrosive stress that stems from fear of eviction or other disastrous housing scenarios; they are almost always going without adequate medical care; go too long between dentist visits; and for many, finding and keeping a good paying job seems nearly impossible. And while the people we serve in these situations can live without housing, healthcare and jobs, they cannot live without food. However, to truly end food insecurity we must also address the other basic needs to often go along with it.

Because food banks can provide help for more than just meals, Second Harvest is committed to addressing the multiple needs of the food-insecure families as a way of truly solving hunger rather than only filling stomachs. Our Culinary Training program breaks the cycle of joblessness, poverty and hunger by providing skills and job readiness and placement. The Health & Hunger Task force brings local healthcare providers together to reshape procedures that will support their most vulnerable patients.

While our core competency of distributing food will remain our primary focus, we recognize that our network of partner food pantries and meal programs has a unique reach and footprint in the community, with the potential to provide much more than food. By harnessing our collective power as a network, along with other like-minded organizations like Enroll America, we can bring more critical services to people in collaboration. In doing this, we can take one step closer to holistically providing for the people we serve and in doing so, take one step closer to truly ending hunger.

*Karen Broussard is the vice president of agency relations and programs at Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.

Tags: Innovative Solutions to Hunger , Food Bank Network , Florida , Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida

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