A Community Effort To Increase Food Access For Local Children in Hamilton County, FL
Located in north central Florida, Hamilton County has the highest rate of hungry children in the state with a staggering one-third of children facing food insecurity.
“Our community is rural. Food security is a real issue. With gas and grocery prices going up, our schools are facing challenges,” said Ida Daniels, veteran 30-year Food Service Director for Hamilton County. “Rural communities also often have less resources available to them. We have one grocery store and when federal assistance comes in, prices seem to go up at the grocery store.” Hamilton County is one of 10 school districts nationwide partnering with Action for Healthy Kids on a NourishEd grant to increase food access and nutrition education.
Against seemingly unsurmountable odds, the nutrition services department expanded the possibilities in which they could meet such a critical need in their community. Equipment was run down, worn and in desperate need of replacement. Without a budget for equipment replacement, the team did not settle for serving meals in ways that were unappetizing. They sought partnerships and grants from organizations that were willing to help.
The AFHK NourishEd grant and partnership with Hubert provided the resources and ease to purchase just what was needed. With food prices soaring, the staff at Hamilton County understood their need and stepped up to provide students with an appetizing and healthy breakfast. The staff used the grant to purchase temperature-controlled bags to serve fresh and appealing daily breakfast to students.
“The grant gave us the liberty to use it how we wanted to use it. The breakfast bags have been key. We want to not only serve food to our children, but we want to do so in a way that is presentable and appealing to them,” Ida said. “We care about food safety. We want to serve hot food hot and cold food cold.”
What effect did the purchase have?
For one, the potential of what food services could accomplish changed.
“Food services aren’t just people opening cans in the kitchen. We want to do good in our community,” Ida says.
Immediately the teachers, staff and students noticed the new bags as breakfast was delivered to the classroom.
“The students take pride in having the bags. They were able to tell right away when the bags were switched,” said Patrick Howell, Foodservice Manager. “It’s because of the partnership with AFHK we are a light in our community.”