The best Thanksgiving turkey I’ve ever tasted was the 18-pound bird my sister roasted in a Big Green Egg on her back porch. Along with savory bread stuffing, it was the centerpiece of a buffet feast that lingers as a memorable family meal. Next to the turkey, I heaped spoonfuls of sweet potato casserole, green beans with slivered almonds, roasted beets, garlic mashed potatoes, cranberry/orange relish, warm yeast rolls and butter, pumpkin cheesecake with bourbon whipped cream, and more goodies than I can recall on my dinner plate. I enjoyed every last bite. My diet started the next day.
During the holidays, as we count our blessings and give thanks, I’ve never worried when or what my next meal would be. My daughters have never gone to bed without dinner or to school without breakfast because I couldn’t afford to feed them. Our health has never suffered from a lack of nutritious food.
Thanks to the recent Second Annual Florida Hunger-Relief Forum hosted by The Mosaic Co., I am very aware of just how fortunate my family is. The statistics struck home. I learned that one in six people in Florida and the U.S. is considered food insecure. Food insecure means people don’t know where their next meal is coming from or they might have to choose between spending money to eat or paying their bills.
I learned that of 3.6 million food-insecure Floridians, one out of four are children. That staggered me.
The Forum was organized by Mosaic with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), the Florida Partnership for Healthy People, Healthy Places, All Children’s Hospital, Feeding America, Publix, Renaissance on 9th, WUSF Public Media, and Florida Impact to focus on hunger issues in our own back yards and communities. It aimed to connect stakeholders interested in feeding people. Mosaic’s sponsorship of the Forum was an extension of its mission to help the world grow the food it needs and its commitment to strengthening global food security and protecting critical water resources.
As the Hunger-Relief Forum keynote speaker, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam told the audience of food bank association leaders, school principals, nonprofit executives, farmers, elected leaders, and others about his department’s new interactive online tool. Called “Florida’s Roadmap to Living Healthy,” the new site (FreshFromFlorida.com/RoadmaptoHealth) uses GIS technology to map health and nutrition data.
Information such as death rates from diet-related illnesses, location of food deserts, number of people receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, school performance measures, locations of food banks, food pantries, farmers’ markets, and more are overlaid to give a dashboard look at an area’s challenges and available resources. The goal is to use this information to strategically assist people in need.
A FDACS news release about the new website quoted Putnam as saying: “It will help state agencies like mine make better-informed decisions about how we use our limited resources to support Florida communities at greatest risk. This tool also will assist nonprofits, food banks, and other organizations to identify gaps in resources, determine the most effective approaches, and yield a greater impact on the residents of Florida.”
Feeding A Constant Need
Every day of the year, farmers in Florida and the companies that help them grow fresh produce and proteins are up to the challenge of feeding a growing and increasingly hungry world.
So, as you celebrate the holidays this year with your family and friends, I hope you will join me in giving thanks for the blessings so many of us enjoy thanks to modern agriculture — like good health and safe, abundant, affordable food.
And if you want to do more than give thanks, consider donating your time or your money to local food banks. FFAA supports Farmers Feeding Florida, a Florida Association of Food Banks program that works with Florida farmers and packers to distribute wholesome but unmarketable fresh produce to our neighbors in need. You can learn more at FAFB.org.