Last Saturday the City of High Springs coordinated with hunger relief organization Farm Share to give away food at the local civic center.
A total of 42 volunteers from the Kiwanis, area churches, and city government employees worked together to load packaged food into the trunks of 857 vehicles. Each slowly drove by a line of tables stacked high with canned goods, cereal, fresh produce, bottled water, juice, milk, bread, frozen fruit, rice and other staples.
That may sound like a lot of vehicles, but it represented a significant decrease in demand. Tom Hewlett, president of the Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe, said the turnout surprised him.
“The last time we held this event the line of cars was several blocks long and we ran out of food early with a number of people still in line,” he said. “This time Farm Share brought more food, but it turned out not to be necessary.”
Hewlett said there were never more than 10 cars in line at a time. At the end of the event, the city, several churches and charities put out the word that organizers were extending hours to allow more people to claim remaining food. Hewlett said more people came, but generally not for themselves.
“Most of them were volunteering to take the food into the neighborhoods to distribute to people that didn’t have transportation,” he said. “The city staff also loaded a trailer with food to distribute. It was really cool all these people step up to help their neighbors.”
Avalyn Lancaster was one of those good Samaritans. She said she came to get food to distribute to others who couldn’t come to the event.
“There are a lot of people, especially the elderly, that don’t have a car or transportation,” she said. “I am taking these supplies out into the community to help those people.”
Organizer Emma Holt said transportation has become a bigger obstacle since the pandemic began. She said she often asks first responders to take food to citizens, since they know who needs it—which she sees as a positive for community relations.
“I want people to know that officers do something other than write tickets, arrest people, and throw them in jail,” Holt said. “It’s important for people to know officers have families they leave to protect us. They do things for us other than what they are paid to do.”
It’s unclear exactly why demand dropped, but at least three major developments have occurred since the last High Springs event: More people are returning to work as the economy recovers, the American Rescue Plan distributed cash to most Americans, and more people are now vaccinated.
The hunger relief organization Feeding America projects that 42 million people (1 in 8), including 13 million children (1 in 6), may experience food insecurity in 2021. Those numbers are actually lower than 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic plunged the country into the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
Farm Share, established in 1991, seeks to recover wasted produce to help alleviate hunger, partnering with various organizations, the federal government, and even sports teams such as the Jacksonville Jaguars. In 2020 alone, Farm Share held more than 22,000 community food giveaways and distributed some 137 million pounds of food in Florida.
To see a list of future food distribution events, visit the Farm Share website.