Second Harvest of the Big Bend supplies more than 55,000 people in the Tallahassee area with food every month.
Food insecurity is a big problem in America and an increasing problem in the Big Bend. Tallahassee is home to nearly 100,000 food insecure people, according to Shari Hubbard, community relations director at Second Harvest. Hubbard says that the Big Bend has the highest number of food insecure people per capita in Florida.
Food insecure means not having access to food daily. According to USDA.org, in 2017, 40 million people lived in food-insecure households.
Food pantries have become a vital part of many Tallahassee residents’ lives. A food pantry is a site that distributes food directly to residents in the area who are in need; this can be a permanent location or mobile. Many of Tallahassee’s food pantries are housed at local churches. Others can be found in places like the Salvation Army and on college campuses like Florida State University and Florida A&M University.
“I’ve used food pantries because they’ve always provided great food to me and others in need,” said Tallahassee resident Thaddeus Washington. Washington believes that food pantries are a great way for people in need to receive nutritious meals, as some pantries also provide fresh produce.
Second Harvest of the Big Bend is a food bank partnered with Feeding America that serves residents in 11 counties surrounding Tallahassee including Leon, Gadsden, Jefferson and others. Second Harvest has a stock room full of fresh fruits, vegetables and non-perishable food items that it distributes to food pantries across the city.
In addition to supplying food pantries with food, Second Harvest also provides meal kits for more than 1,200 students in schools in the area. These meal kits contain six meals that students can take home. The USDA reports that in 2017, 540,000 children (0.7 percent of the nation’s children) lived in households in which one or more child experienced very low food security.
Nearly all the food at Second Harvest’s food bank is donated from businesses in the area like Walmart and Target, in addition to smaller businesses.
Volunteers provide most of the manual labor. The volunteers help with sorting the donated food, filling grocery bags, planning events and helping with administrative work. Many volunteers also help with date checking which is checking the expiration dates on all the food to ensure it is still fresh and safe to eat.
Foodpantries.org is a helpful tool that provides a list of food pantries for every area code in the country.