The Leon County Commission recently unanimously passed an item that allows the county government to partner with the City of Tallahassee and America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend. The collaborators will conduct community meetings to ascertain what barriers exacerbate food insecurity in specific neighborhoods.
In January 2021, during the commissioner’s annual retreat, elected officials approved a series of new strategic initiatives, including working with community partners to develop possible options for those struggling with food insecurity by utilizing the results of Feeding America’s recent study.
Feeding America is an organization that works to deliver food to those in need. The organization collaborates with manufacturers, distributors, retailers, food service companies, and farmers to gather food before it goes to waste.
More than 42 million Americans may experience food insecurity, including a potential 13 million children, says Feeding America. In addition, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, more than 38 million people in the United States experienced hunger in 2020.
According to Feeding America, one in three children in Leon County struggles to find their next meal. Additionally, about 68,000 people in Leon County are food insecure, including 16,000 children.
Feeding America conducted a study, Map the Meal Gap, to identify and prioritize resources in neighborhoods with the highest levels of food insecurity. The Map the Meal Gap considers socioeconomic data such as median household income and physical, mental, and neurological disabilities to pinpoint food insecurity at the local level.
Second Harvest intends to use the free data from Feeding America to enhance cooperation with community partners in the neighborhoods identified in the Map the Meal Gap report. The food insecurity rate for the neighborhoods identified in the report is significantly higher than the overall county food insecurity rate of 14%. Also, the household incomes in these areas are well below the county’s median household income, of $53,106, for a household of four.
A few examples of the areas listed in the report are neighborhoods in the FAMU area, Bond, and Outer Griffin Heights. The neighborhood groups listed in the report are entirely or partially within the city limits. They currently receive significant city resources through annual federal and state funding, such as the Community Development Block Grant and State Housing Initiative Partnership.
The county has committed funding in support of Second Harvest to address food insecurity in the community, including:
-Annual funding of $290,000 to Second Harvest through the Community Human Services Partnership (CHSP).
-Over $4 million in Leon CARES funding to distribute 3 million meals to low-income households impacted by COVID-19. In 2020 Second Harvest delivered about 12.6 million meals for no charge.
-And, approximately $767,280 in funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) that will help distribute an additional 722,000 meals over the next two years.