Treasure Coast Food Bank Senior Director of Programs Homer Gutierrez was the guest speaker at a recent meeting of the Exchange Club of Indian River County gathered for lunch at CJ Cannons. Gutierrez and Director of Marketing and Communications Triana Romero shared how Treasure Coast Food Bank fights hunger and poverty in its four-county service area.
“On behalf of Treasure Coast Food Bank, I want to thank you for having us visit with you today. Since the Exchange Club is very focused on the care and safety of children, I’m sure you’ll be very interested in how our efforts support that as well,” Gutierrez said.
More than 100,000 people in Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin and Okeechobee counties struggle with hunger, including 21,000 in Indian River County, or 15.2 percent of the population, he said. Contributing to that struggle is the relatively high cost of a meal in Indian River County. At $3.40, it is well above the national average cost of $2.94, according to data from the most recent Map the Meal Gap study.
Treasure Coast Food Bank’s vision is to provide food to improve the quality of health and wellness to those struggling with food insecurity. Treasure Coast Food Bank also strengthens the ability of food-insecure individuals to become self-sufficient through numerous programs focused on health and wellness. Many programs target specific populations, including seniors, veterans, or children.
Complementing the Exchange Club’s focus on youth, Gutierrez outlined the numerous Treasure Coast Food Bank programs targeting child hunger and nutrition. Those include the Backpack Program, Farm 2 School program, Kid’s Café, school-based food pantries, teen pantries stocked with items every teen wants and needs, and Summer Meals, which feeds thousands of children every week when schools are closed and kids no longer have access to school cafeterias.
Summer Meals takes place throughout the summer at sites across the Treasure Coast. Each weekday, nearly 2,000 youth 18 and younger eat nutritious fresh-made breakfasts, lunches, and snacks at no cost to them through the program. Summer Meals is supported, in part, through donations, which can be made by visiting stophunger.org.
Exchange Club members also learned about Treasure Coast Food Bank’s newest initiative, its Florida Agriculture & Nourishment Collaborative run from its new fresh food processing plant. The program is set to channel 25 million pounds of fresh, nutritious produce from area farms into the hands of food-insecure individuals and children, generate new jobs in the community, and create skills-based training opportunities.
ABOUT TREASURE COAST FOOD BANK
Treasure Coast Food Bank is the only food bank and largest hunger relief organization on Florida’s Treasure Coast, providing the community each year with millions of meals valued at more than $50 million through robust programs and in partnership with 400 charitable organizations in Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin, and Okeechobee counties. In addition to emergency food distribution, Treasure Coast Food Bank operates a full roster of direct service programs that not only solve the immediate problem of hunger, but help individuals and families gain long-term food security, better health outcomes, and self-sufficiency. Treasure Coast Food Bank is a member of Feeding America, the nationwide network of 200 food banks that leads the fight against hunger in the United States. For more information on Treasure Coast Food Bank, call 772.489.3034, log on to stophunger.org, visit our Facebook page at facebook.com/tcfoodbank, or follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/tcfoodbank.