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Member Spotlight: War on Hunger Collaborative

Posted By Charlotte Gill, Tuesday, October 30, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Spotlight on Feeding Palm Beach County’s Hungry Residents

 

People often say that nonprofits work in silos and don’t work well together. This year, the “War on Hunger” collaborative in Palm Beach County proved them wrong.

 

The massive food distribution effort won the 2018 Community Collaboration Award during our Hats Off Nonprofits Awards event in October.

 

So it’s only fitting that we highlight the collaborative in our monthly spotlight on the extraordinary work of nonprofits.

 

Here is the story of how the group reached hundreds of thousands of hunger residents in our community.

 

 

The task was enormous: hand-delivering 3,864,168 snacks, in 214,676 “white boxes,” to nearly 215,000 Palm Beach County residents struggling with poverty and hunger, in a two-month period.

 

It was a job for the military or another big government agency, right?

 

No, this was done locally by a collaboration of 19 key public, private, and nonprofit organizations with the clear goal of feeding every hungry child, adult and senior in Palm Beach County during the spring of 2018.

 

The massive outreach effort started when Farm Share alerted Living Hungry, a West Palm Beach-based group fighting hunger, to the fact that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was looking for agencies to accept 100 truckloads of expiring “hurricane-shelter snack boxes.” If the food was accepted, it would need to be distributed fast to avoid the expiration date of July.

 

“We are going to need more partners, more people!” Maura Plante, founder of Living Hungry, said at the time.

 

And so, Plante contacted Palm Beach County School Board Member Erica Whitfield, along with other public sector organizations including Houston Tate and Ruth Morguillansky from the Palm Beach County Office of Community Revitalization who recruited the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. Together, with Michael Farver, South Florida Hunger Coalition they followed a creative, strategic planning process and set out to build an outreach collaborative, with each partner playing a specific, mission-critical role.

 

The “War on Hunger” collaborative, as it became known, also involved: Nonprofits First, Sysco Southeast Florida, Restoration Bridge, Daughters of the American Revolution, The Palm Beach Post, Cox Media, The Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida, Glades Initiative, and ARC of the Glades, as well as other organizations from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors with support from the Everglades Trust. Additionally, many municipalities helped out with logistics and distribution, including City of Riviera Beach, City of Delray Beach, and cities of Belle Glade, South Bay and Pahokee.

 

Together, they engaged dozens of local charities, churches, agencies, businesses, girl scout troops, civic groups, service providers, organizations, school principals, teachers, coaches, police officers, and neighbors to get the food out. The Palm Beach County Office of Community Revitalization distributed 2.2 million meals in just 9 days with the cities and hundreds of partners.

 

One of the many areas of target: filling the hunger gap for 33,000 students over the 10-day Spring Break holiday in March.

 

The PBC School District School Food Service team asked all principals to pick up pallets in vans, trucks, and SUVs. In just three days, close to 600,000 snacks were handed out at 87 schools at the start of the weeklong break. One student said to a collaborative team member: “Without these snack boxes, we would not have had much to eat.”

 

The collaborative had many other powerful stories, like getting nearly 1,555 Girl Scouts involved in the effort. They learned about hunger and earned a “Drive the Food” badge for feeding 28,000 people people they each researched and chose who to feed locally with 505,000 snacks. One of the troop leaders said: A hungry man “shocked the girls when he sat right down on the spot and cracked open the can of ravioli to eat.”

 

In all, a small army of workers and volunteers from more than 170 organizations answered the call to help and distributed the boxes of food to tens of thousands of hungry residents from across Palm Beach County.

 

It’s another extraordinary example of what happens when nonprofits take the lead in addressing our community’s toughest challenges.

 

If your nonprofit has a great story to tell, contact Charlotte Gill at Nonprofits First: (561) 910-3891 or cgill@nonprofitsfirst.org.

Tags:  Charities  Network  Poverty  Storytelling  Volunteer 

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