Northwest Florida Healthy Food Distribution and Milton Warehouse Expansion Project
Feeding the Gulf Coast
Feeding the Gulf Coast (formerly known as Bay Area Food Bank, Inc.) provides nutritious food to meet the challenge of feeding people who are hungry as a result of personal crisis or disaster and educate the public regarding domestic hunger, proper nutrition and other related issues. The Food Bank was founded and incorporated in 1981. In 1988, the Food Bank became a member of Feeding America, the nation’s hunger relief organization. In its disaster relief role, the Food Bank works in partnership with state emergency management agencies and is poised to act as a primary food source should the Gulf Coast be struck by disaster. The Food Bank operates various nutrition programs for low-income families including child nutrition programs: Backpack, Summer Food Service and Afterschool Snack.
According to Feeding America’s Map, the Meal Gap Study, there are over 80,000 people struggling with food insecurity in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. A surge in food collection and distribution has exceeded the capacity of the Food Bank’s Panhandle Branch. The branch was constructed for daily use by one truck with intake and distribution of about 4 million pounds. They currently operate three daily truck delivery and pickup routes and receive and distribute over 8.5 million pounds across the Florida Panhandle. Loading and unloading these trucks creates congestion during the designated morning and afternoon loading times, which results in significant delays, driver fatigue, and extensive overtime. Each truck takes approximately 1 hour to fully load or offload due to inadequate ramp space, inclement weather, and poor lighting. The Food Bank is requesting funds to expand and extend the loading dock at the Panhandle Branch, located in Milton, Florida, which will optimize tractor trailer loading and unloading under a covered/enclosed area. The Food Bank will also add a cement pad which will support heavy tractor trailer loads.
Expanding the loading dock at the Panhandle Branch will improve the warehouse’s capacity to process increasing food donations efficiently and safely. This project will allow the Food Bank to accept an increasing number of food donations and distribute those donations to programs serving people in need in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. The food pantry partners rely on the Food Bank to provide food for their feeding programs and it is their responsibility to ensure that the food is handled safely so there is no risk to the community. Once the expansion is completed, the Food Bank anticipates the following program metrics in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties: retail store level pickup increased by 2.7 million pounds of food rescued from retailers; mobile pantry will have 450,000 additional pounds distributed through 90 mobile pantries; Afterschool Snack and Summer Food Service increased by 40 sites supporting 2,000 children; Summer Food Service and Backpack will be increased by 20 sites serving 1,000 children. National studies have repeatedly shown that reducing food insecurity in children has a direct impact on learning and on health. A nationwide survey of over 3,000 teachers showed that over 50% indicated that they saw hungry children in the classroom, and their hunger impacted learning. Improved performance in school results in higher graduation rates and a better prepared workforce in the community. Poor nutrition has a direct correlation to poor health and obesity. Improving nutrition among food insecure adults, many of whom receive government medical care, can reduce pressure on a community’s medical care system by improving the overall health of its residents.