Our mission at Second Harvest is to create hope and nourish lives through a powerful hunger relief network, while multiplying the generosity of a caring community. We work with our community to erase the food gap that exists in Central Florida between families that have a need but not consistent access to food. This gap would be far worse without our partnership with the Orange County Public School (OCPS) system.
Each weekday children whose families deal with financial struggles, and the resulting food insecurity issues, receive free or reduced breakfast and lunches. In some areas in Orange County the percentage of low-income children is so high that many schools have 90% or more of their students receiving free and reduced lunch.
Second Harvest Food Bank offers several programs through our Childhood Hunger Program — which offers hot meals and nonperishable foods afterschool and over the weekends to children with food insecurity is. About eight years ago, Orange County Public Schools contacted Second Harvest to help bridge the gap that is left during the two-week school is out for winter break.
On Saturday December 17th Orange County Public Schools and Second Harvest conducted their annual Holiday Food Drop. This year the drop was funded by grants awarded by CarMax, C&S, and First United Methodist Church. Because of the very generous funding from our grantors, we were able to increase the schools we distributed to, and also provide more food to families in need.
The Holiday Drops were at seven different schools located throughout Orange County. With the help of Orange County Public Schools, Second Harvest employees, and literally hundreds of volunteers, we were able to pass out fresh produce, canned and dry items, and baked goods. In addition, every single family received a whole turkey!
That Saturday, I volunteered at Palmetto Elementary School, which was a new location for this year. When the families and individuals arrived, many came in cars; but there were also several who walked to the school with only a basket to carry items home. There was one person in particular I noticed. She was an elderly woman who started to walk with her cart down the line in order to receive the food. When an OCPS volunteer placed a whole turkey in her basket, you could literally see on her face how touched she was. “I’m so grateful” she said as she showed a huge smile. “I knew there would be food, but not like this!” She was nearly in tears. We all had goosebumps from the joy she received.
Moments like those, and seeing the hundreds of people helped that day, remind us all how tenuous life can be; how fortunate we are compared to others. Moments like those remind us that at Second Harvest Food Bank, we don’t just provide food, we provide something else: Hope.
For all the sites combined, we served a total of 2,021 families which consisted of 7,579 adults and 5,544 children. It was really nice to know that all the families we served were able to go home with one less thing to worry about this holiday season.
Thank you to the amazing employees and volunteers at Orange County Public School who made a huge difference in people’s lives this holiday season.
Agency Relations Coordinator