As some of you may recall, childhood hunger is something I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about lately. I hate that it took TV to get me motivated to Be the Change, but it did. I’ll never forget the powerful series of reports “60 Minutes” did on my Central Florida community late last year and early this year.
Admittedly, I have not done as much as I would’ve liked in the months since I wrote that first post. What can I say? I just blinked and eight months have flown by.
As I’ve shared before, I’m speaking at next month’s Central Florida Blogging Conference on the topic of “Fitting Blogging Into Your Life.” I could easily replace the word “blogging” with so many things — exercising, eating well, reading, spending time with friends and yes, volunteering.
That’s why I’m so thankful to the CFLBlogCon organizers for finding a way to incorporate volunteering into our gathering.
Whether you’re attending CFLBlogCon or not, please consider participating in Blogging for Good. If you’re a blogger, write a post on one of the six chosen nonprofits (more on them below). Or, anyone can purchase a raffle ticket for gift baskets. Each of the six participating organizations has donated a basket, with prizes ranging from spa gift certificates to Star Wars miniatures (which I’m hoping to win!) to a 3-day stay at a Westgate resort. Tickets are just $10 and here’s the best part — 100% of the money raised goes directly to the nonprofits! Click here for a full list of raffle prizes and to purchase yours.
This year’s six participating nonprofits are:
- The Orlando Science Center
- The Spina Bifada Association of Central Florida
- The Valencia Foundation
- The Greater Orlando Heart Walk
- United Arts of Central Florida
- The Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida
I’d like to spend a couple moments telling you about the amazing people at Second Harvest. After I published that Be the Change post in December, I quickly heard from the wonderful social media team at Second Harvest (Follow them on Twitter at: @2harvestCFL).
They invited a group of local bloggers, including me, to attend a Food for Thought tour at the Second Harvest headquarters in Orlando.
I knew the people at Second Harvest did great things; I didn’t know they did miraculous things. I was blown away. Here’s some of what I learned on the tour:
- Last year, Second Harvest distributed more than 33 million pounds of food — that’s the equivalent of more than 21 million meals.
- Approximately 1 in 5 of our population (732,000 people) needed food assistance in Central Florida in 2010. This is a 152 percent increase from 2006. Those numbers were likely even higher in 2011.
- On average, more than 55,000 different people receive assistance from Second Harvest EACH WEEK.
- Second Harvest provides food to more than 500 other local nonprofits, including Boys and Girls Clubs, shelters, daycares, Salvation Army and public schools.
- 47 percent of those receiving food assistance are children
- The current Second Harvest distribution center holds 1 to 1.5 million pounds of food at any time. If Second Harvest stopped receiving food today, the warehouse would be empty in 2 weeks. In other words, they move food fast!
- Sasha Hausman, the Development Manager for Second Harvest, says they are currently distributing food at disaster levels. “The natural disaster is our slow-moving economy,” Sasha said.
That’s a lot to digest, I know. But we all need to wake up — the problem is getting worse, not better.
So, how can you help?
- Food drives: 10 percent of Second Harvest’s food comes from food drives and Sasha told us the best part of food drives is the variety of foods that they bring in.
- Donate cash: Second Harvest recently broke ground on its new facility. It will have 100,000 square feet — that’s three times the space of the current facility and Second Harvest will be able to distribute more food, accept more donations, partner with more agencies and create new programs. Second Harvest is currently turning away 4 million pounds of fresh produce per year because they just don’t have the space to store it. Sasha says it’s their most heartbreaking situation now — turning away perishable, fresh, nutritious foods.
- Volunteer your time (food sorters, special events volunteers, create Hi-Five packs — more on these below)
- Be an advocate for Second Harvest. Help spread the word any way you can (blogs, tweets, tell the people in your life) about the life-changing works at Second Harvest.
The Hi-Five packs really stuck with me. Sasha told us that teachers and school administrators started noticing that children were coming into school sick on Mondays. They had headaches and were lethargic. They realized that many of these children had not eaten since their last free meal at school — lunch on Friday. Through this program, teachers are given shrink-wrapped, two-day supplies of nutrtiious, kid-friendly, non-perishable packs. On Friday, during recess or other private times, the teachers slip the packs into the children’s backpacks, without other students seeing and stigmatizing the children in need. The packs cost $3 each and in 2010, they were distributed to 33,000 students. That number rose in 2011. The program is currently in 22 schools, including the first middle school. Sasha says it’s tougher to reach the older children because of pride issues.
I really encourage you to gather a group of friends or family and sign up for a Food for Thought tour. You will not only learn so much about this incredible organization, you will see first-hand how many opportunities, both large and small, there are for you to make a difference.
The tour lasts about an hour and they even provide you with lunch. At first, I felt really guilty sitting there eating my (DELICIOUS!) turkey sandwich but we even learned on the tour how that specific aspect of it is funded by someone who is so passionate about spreading the word about Second Harvest.
And if you’re a skeptic, let me leave you with one last stunning figure: Second Harvest has a 97 percent efficient rate and is a four-star rated charity. Administrative costs are only 3 percent of Second Harvest’s budget.
Get involved, change a life.
What nonprofits are you passionate about?