Feeding the Florida Panhandle
Feeding the Gulf Coast, Inc.
As a member food bank of Feeding America and a United Way Member Agency, Feeding the Gulf Coast works through member organizations and special programs to provide nutritious food to meet the challenge of feeding people who are hungry as a result of systemic poverty, personal crisis or disaster. Feeding the Gulf Coast also educates the public regarding domestic hunger, proper nutrition and other related issues. Feeding the Gulf Coast, Inc. was founded and incorporated in 1981. In 1988, the food bank became a member of Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger relief organization. Since its founding, the organization has distributed more than 280 million pounds of food to charitable feeding organizations across the 24 counties it serves, including nine counties in lower Alabama, eight counties in lower Mississippi, and seven counties across the panhandle of Florida. In 2019, the food bank distributed over 29 million pounds of food through a network of over 400 community partners, consisting of child nutrition sites, church pantries, soup kitchens and other non-profit organizations. On average, these partners served nearly 114,000 people each month in 2019.
As part of a larger building expansion at its Milton facility, IMPACT 100 grant funds will be used to purchase and install racking for food storage and two pit loading dock levelers for safe unloading and loading of food on refrigerated trucks. In addition, Feeding the Gulf Coast will purchase a floor scale and a computer for use in receiving shipments, building orders, and marking inventory. Included in the plan is expansion of the dry storage area, conversion of the existing cooler into a freezer, and an addition of a cooler. These facility improvements will allow Feeding the Gulf Coast to expand its operational capacity to serve more people in need in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties as well as across the Florida panhandle. The planned expansion will increase the usable warehouse space from 14,680 square feet to 20,530 square feet. This will provide for a total of 350 additional bin/pallet locations, an increase of 68%, which will allow Feeding the Gulf Coast to significantly increase the volume and variety of nutritious food it provides to the community partners and on to those families struggling with hunger in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties.
In 2019, Feeding the Gulf Coast's Milton facility distributed 14,268,918 pounds of food. This warehouse, built in 2009, was only designed to distribute 8,000,000 pounds of food per year. This warehouse can no longer support increasing distributions, yet the need remains. Additional bin space provided by the racking means that the food bank can intake more products to make available for its community partners while increasing the accuracy of those orders and providing more regular updating for the online ordering system for those community partners. The addition of the pit levelers to the new loading dock will allow for the more efficient and safe loading and unloading of food items. As of May 31, 2020, the Milton warehouse has increased distribution by 29% compared to the same period in 2019. Business closures, layoffs, and increased health care costs related to COVID-19 and the subsequent economic downturn mean an estimated additional 28,200 more people could be at risk of facing hunger in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties this year. This 44% increase means there is a need for increased food distribution. Through this expansion, Feeding the Gulf Coast aims to both increase food storage and distribution capacity while also improving safety for the staff.