Local food bank, hospitals partner to combat food insecurity
Approximately one in six Central Florida residents are struggling with hunger or food insecurity – increasing their risk for chronic illness and contributing to rising healthcare costs.
Leaders from Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, Florida Hospital and Orlando Health recently convened for a “Health and Hunger” panel to highlight the cycle of food insecurity and disease – and the forces of change that put more residents at risk.
Among the participants were Dave Krepcho, president and CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida; Tim Cook, senior vice president of Florida Hospital West Orange Market and administrator of Florida Hospital Apopka; and Greg Ohe, senior vice president of ambulatory for Orlando Health.
Krepcho, Cook and Ohe discussed how victims of hunger not only experience greater rates of illness such as heart disease and diabetes, but often have increased difficulty focusing and holding jobs. In turn, that affects these individuals’ ability to manage healthcare costs. The panel also discussed the potential impact of proposed federal funding cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which could result in an annual loss of 32 million meals for Central Floridians.
“We are already experiencing a huge meal gap and this is going to take us in reverse,” said Dave Krepcho, President and CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. “Half of all SNAP users exhaust their benefits during the first two weeks of the month, jeopardizing their health with fast food rather than fresh fruits and vegetables that cost more. Hunger is a critical public health issue in Central Florida, and we must work with our partners in healthcare to shed light on this issue and develop practical solutions for our neighbors.”
“The impact of nutrition on one’s long-term health cannot be overstated. Food insecurity and lack of access to healthy foods can affect development in children, and learning and behavioral issues. It also increases the likelihood of obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure,” said Tim Cook, senior vice president/administrator for Florida Hospital Apopka/Winter Garden. “Florida Hospital has been committed to providing whole-person, whole-community health for more than 100 years. Nutrition is a key component, and we’re dedicated to helping improve access to healthy foods in Central Florida and supporting local organizations with a shared mission.”
“There are many aspects to this complex issue,” said Greg Ohe, senior vice president of ambulatory services for Orlando Health. “Orlando Health is committed to improving the lives of community members inside and outside the walls of the hospital, and we look forward to working with community organizations, leaders and residents to bring solutions to this growing problem.”
U.S. Representative Darren Soto, who’s part of a committee that advises Congress on the Farm Bill, also attended the event, sharing that the SNAP cuts will affect all Americans by increasing health care and social services costs.
For more information about Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, and the connections between health and hunger, visit www.FeedHopeNow.org
About Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida
SHFBCF is a member of Feeding America – the largest charitable domestic hunger-relief organization in the United States. SHFBCF secures and distributes food and grocery products to approximately 550 local nonprofit feeding programs throughout Central Florida. Last year, with the help of food and financial donors, volunteers and a caring, committed community, the food bank distributed 52 million meals to partner programs such as food pantries, soup kitchens, women’s shelters, senior centers, day care centers and Kids Cafes. In addition, Second Harvest’s 14-week culinary program teaches foodservice-based technical, life and employability skills to economically hard-pressed adults. Our community turns to Second Harvest’s partner agencies more than 71,000 times per week. To learn more about SHFBCF, visit www.FeedHopeNow.org.