With the holidays behind us, and the memories of wonderful meals with our families, it is hard to stomach the fact that so many people in the U.S. are what is known as food insecure. The USDA defines food insecurity as a state in which “consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources during the year.” In layman terms, this means people who are a paycheck away from being able to feed themselves and/or their families or are susceptible to “hunger.”
Florida is the third most populous state in the nation, and our economy is on the upswing. Unemployment is currently at 5 percent. New construction projects are popping up throughout the state. That all is great news.
What is incredibly alarming is that according to the charity Feeding America, in South Florida alone, there are 700,000 people who are food insecure. This data is from its 2015 “Map the Meal Gap” study.
With such an important issue as hunger, Florida’s grocers and restaurants, are stepping up and helping in a myriad of ways.
Publix Super Markets, has had charity in its corporate philosophy since its founding by George W. Jenkins in 1930 in Winter Haven, Fla. The company is now headquartered in Lakeland, and Publix Super Markets Charities (PSMC), created in 1966, is run by Carol Jenkins Barnett, “Mr. George’s” daughter. Publix has been named one of Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work for in America” for 18 consecutive years.
Publix was named a 2015 Visionary Partner by Feeding America for the more than 36 million pounds of food it donated. This past November the company announced it would donate $1.5 million to Feeding America and 12-member food banks in communities where Publix is located. In Florida the food banks include: Feeding Tampa Bay, Feeding Northeast Florida, Feeding South Florida, Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida and the Treasure Coast Food Bank. Each food bank will receive a $120,000 donation to acquire a refrigerated truck in order to transport healthy, perishable foods.
Feeding America also will receive a $60,000 contribution from PSMC that will in turn provide an additional 660,000 meals to families in need.
To date, Publix has given more than 174 million pounds of perishable food to food banks that would translate into nearly 174 million meals.
Another Central Florida company is adopting philanthropy as its primary business tenet. DUO 58 is expanding its catering and events company with a community coffee bar and café and is an actual 501(c)(3), a nonprofit. Its name is an acronym for “do unto others” and 58 is a reference to the bible verse Isaiah 58:10.
Based in Oviedo, it will celebrate its coffee bar grand opening later this month. Its goal is to help Haiti through its partnership with that country’s Mission of Hope charity providing food and education to Haitian children.
The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, essentials such as food and education are scarce in Haiti and 55 percent of its population go hungry, according to the World Food Program. Moreover, more than 17,000 children will never go to school.
As a result, DUO 58 President Nathan Seta and Board Member Marc Lowen chose to partner with Mission of Hope, devising a business model that would provide financial support, as well as public awareness.
Its Director Doug Lycett is one of three café managers responsible for carrying out the organization’s philanthropic mission.
“We only source from ethical specialty coffee roasters who work directly with the farmers to purchase their premium crop on a seasonal basis. We are what is considered a multi-roaster café, meaning we do not source our coffee from just one roaster,” says Lycett.
Both the catering business and the café rely in part on volunteers and interns like Kayla Orr to further the organization’s mission. She lends her calligraphy skills to handwrite the menu boards and has been volunteering four hours per week at the cafe.
They are not alone.
Florida restaurants open their doors to charitable causes throughout the year. Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month was held last September for the 10th consecutive year and was very successful. Presented by American Express, many Greater Orlando restaurants participate in the prix fixe menu and one dollar from each meal is donated to a designated charity.
Other popular events held around the state include: Amelia Island Restaurant Week; Clearwater Beach Restaurant Week; Coral Gables Restaurant Week; Visit Tallahassee/Capital Cuisine Restaurant Week; Gainesville Restaurant Week and Dine Tampa Bay.
With 4,200 new restaurants that opened in Florida in 2015, it’s nice to see charity on the menu.