Every day, 250,000 children go hungry in South Florida.
At FIU, 100 students per week stop by the university's two food pantries to pick up non-perishable food.
The issue of food insecurity is a significant problem that has ballooned into a crisis since COVID-19. Cars lined up for food drive-up events, meal giveaways and people trying to decide whether to pay for rent or food are reality for so many families after losing their jobs or facing hardship due to the pandemic.
That's why Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava and FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg recently hosted a panel about agriculture and food insecurity at Biscayne Bay Campus to bring attention to the problem during Hunger Action Month.
"Florida is one of America's top producers of farm fresh food, yet 3 million Floridians struggle with chronic hunger and food insecurity every single year," said Fried.
The Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services Food Insecurity panel brought together community leaders with the heads of agencies like Feeding South Florida, Farm Share, United Farmers Alliance, FHEED, The Garden Network, Curley's House Hope Relief Food Bank and Joanna Berens Hospitality to discuss not only food insecurity, but a way to deliver food to those in need.
"Unfortunately in our case, we like most universities, do have students who struggle to find a hot meal, a situation that we know has been aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic," said Rosenberg. "That's why we're here today, standing firmly with our two commissioners in this important time," he added.
Tackling Food Waste
Food insecurity is an issue Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management professor John Buschman has been trying to tackle for years through food sustainability and waste. Through his sustainability classes and contacts, he set up the infrastructure to get leftover food from hotels and large events to people in need. His efforts started nearly 15 years ago by salvaging leftovers from at least eight events at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival®.
After this year's Super Bowl 54 at Hard Rock Stadium, students from the Chaplin School and dietetics and nutrition students from the Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work saved more than 18,000 pounds of food, which were then delivered to five South Florida homeless shelters and converted into hot meals.
"It's heartwarming to see so many key figures in South Florida and the state here on our BBC campus to connect our role in the overall issue," said Buschman.
Farm to Table
Eliminating food waste is professor Buschman's goal, but he and Chaplin School professor John Noble Masi have been instrumental in helping to secure boxes of fresh vegetables and fruits directly from the USDA Farmers to Families program. This summer they delivered 10-pound boxes of fresh produce to families in need.
Professors and students at the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine have also been part of the farm to table movement. The college's Green Family Foundation Neighborhood Health Education Learning Program helps feed more than 200 households through a food pantry and home delivery started with a $100,000 grant from the Green Family Foundation.
How You Can Help
September may be Hunger Action Month, but food insecurity is a year-round issue.
The best way to help fight food insecurity at FIU is to make a monetary donation toward the FIU Student Food Pantry online through the FIU Foundation. The FIU Food Pantry also accept donations of non-perishable food items and toiletries, but due to limited staffing on campus, anyone who wants to make an in-kind donation should email Joanna Garcia at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com to schedule a drop off.
"FIU will drive a stake in the ground every time to help those who have need," Rosenberg concluded.
"We're in this together and together we will combat food insecurity and make sure that we are providing these resources to our community," said Fried.