The pandemic has shown us a lot. It reminded us that we are indeed a global community, that what happens on the other side of the planet can affect us here at home. It’s reflected both the good and bad within our nature, from dedicated healthcare workers to people hoarding everything from toilet paper to medicine. It’s also reminded us of what is essential – access to healthcare, a place to live, food to eat – and how swiftly many American families fall through the cracks when that access disappears.
Thankfully, there are many national and local organizations dedicated to feeding the hungry and eliminating the causes of food scarcity, malnutrition and starvation in the Unites States and abroad. Here in Jacksonville, Feeding Northeast Florida has been doing tremendous work. By coordinating with more than 300 nonprofit partner agencies and programs, the organization distributed nearly 31 million pounds of food last year to 2.8 million individuals.
“We are really, at the core, coming from a belief that no one in our community should be hungry or struggling with this basic human need,” said Sarah Dobson, the Director of Development at Feeding Northeast Florida. “There is plenty of food in this country to feed everyone. It comes down to access. In some parts of our community, both urban and rural, there just are not many grocery stores or places that provide access to healthy food. Our role is to get the food, make sure it is healthy and safe, and then redistribute it.”
That’s a mission Atlantic Logistics is proud to support. The rising, Jacksonville-based 3PL provider has chosen Feeding Northeast Florida as this month’s recipient for its Service 365 program, a charitable giving program that benefits a different local non-profit each month of the year.
"The pandemic was a strong reminder of how easily the most basic items can be taken away from us," said Chief Operating Officer Johnnie Greene. "We all saw the lines of cars lined up at food banks around the country. If those images didn't shake you, I really don't know what would. Food insecurity is a real threat and I'm proud that Atlantic Logistics is doing our part to mitigate that by supporting Feeding Northeast Florida.
“This is the greatest country on Earth. No one should go hungry. Period," Greene concluded.
Feeding Northeast Florida covers an eight-county area, which is 55,000 square miles. Although they receive a small amount of government funding and receive most of their food donations from retailers, manufacturers and local farms, the organization depends heavily on private donations to accomplish much of what they do, Dobson said.
“Back in 2019, we distributed around 16 million meals and then almost doubled that in 2020. The need was great because of the pandemic but the other piece of that was the community really coming forward,” she said. “So, when we receive a donation, it directly supports the program in the community. It goes to our truck drivers, for fuel and upkeep of those trucks. It goes toward the logistics cost of moving the food and keeping it cold and safe for human consumption. The amount of food we can put into the community is directly related to the level of community support we receive.”
For every dollar the organization receives, whether the donation is in kind or financial, six meals are put into the community. Feeding Northeast Florida acts as a tremendous steward of the donations it receives and the work it accomplishes is a critical part of caring for the Jacksonville community.
“Doing this work, you become keenly aware that as humans, you can’t accomplish anything in your life without first satisfying your basic need for food,” Dobson said. “By providing healthy food and eliminating hunger, we help people find stability in other areas of their life. The majority of the people we serve have full-time jobs and live in permanent housing, but their pay doesn’t quite stretch to cover everything or there’s been some life event that’s made things difficult. For most of us, there’s very little margin in the family budget for emergencies, so people need a little help now and then to get through it. When it comes down to it, it’s just neighbors helping neighbors.”