During the Alliance to End Hunger’s National Hunger Free Communities Summit here on Saturday,the Treasure Coast Food Bank won the second-place innovation award for its transportation service. The recognition came with $1,500.
Getting people to work,medical facilities and other places helps reduces hunger,Krista Garofalo,the food bank’s director of advocacy and initiatives,said.
“If someone can get to a job,they’re going to have more money in order for them to have a decent food budget,” Garofalo said.
The food bank started the Transportation Coordination Network six months ago after a Hunger Free Community Coalition town hall meeting with agencies and partners. There,food bank officials heard that transportation after public transit hours was a need for St. Lucie residents. The St. Lucie County Housing and Community Services Department and its transportation partners spearheaded the network.
The Arc of St. Lucie is one of the five transportation providers,and it gives disabled and low-income people rides to job training and work,and for their children,transportation to child care facilities.
“We’ve gotten a lot of really positive responses from people,and they’re hoping we can expand it to even more services once we get funding,” Garofalo said.
The transportation network has expanded its services to college students needing to get to and from classes.
The food bank’s executive director,Judith Cruz,said with the recession hurting the Treasure Coast area’s construction industry,particularly in St. Lucie,some residents are working minimum wage jobs with night shifts.
Cruz said service needs have increased for the food bank.
“In 2010,we were serving about 42,000 individuals a week,and we’re up over 104,000 people … each week,” Cruz said,adding she expects new data may show even higher numbers.
The food bank does not know how many people are using the transportation network,but Cruz and Garofalo said the transportation providers are gathering the data.
Within the next six to eight months,the food bank plans to begin offering services to the TreasureCoast’s other counties and taking people to more places.
Cruz and Garofalo said a volunteer driver pool could be organized.
The Alliance to End Hunger held its summit in conjunction with the Food Research and Action Center and Feeding America’s National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference,which goes through Tuesday with visits to Capitol Hill. Cruz and Garofalo plan to ask lawmakers to renew the Farm Bill and support ways to reduce food insecurity.
Reach reporter Brooke Kelly [email protected] or 202-326-9866. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.