• Feeding Northeast Florida, local school districts step up help fight food insecurity over the summer

    By: Courtney Cole , Action News Jax

    Updated:

    Thousands of Jacksonville area children are looking forward to the start of summer, but for many parents, the end of school can mean worrying about how to provide three meals each day.

    Action News Jax's Courtney Cole found local options to help make sure kids do not go hungry this summer.

    Angela Reeder says sometimes it’s tough getting up early enough to make sure her grandchildren get breakfast and get to school on time, "I'm glad they do breakfast and lunch at school, because I might struggle in the morning time."

    Other parents might struggle, because they just can't afford to provide breakfast or lunch for their kids.

    "The unfortunate part in Duval County is that 100,000 students are on free-or-reduced lunch,” said Frank Castillo, president and CEO of Feeding Northeast Florida.

    There are 5,909 students in Nassau County, 9,024 students in St. John’s County and 21,591  students in Clay County who also qualify for free-or-reduced lunch.

    "And what that means is that these families depend very heavily on this type of food during the school year,” said Castillo.

    That’s where Feeding Northeast Florida comes into play.

    The food bank will begin mobile food distribution throughout different areas.

    Feeding Northeast Florida will collaborate with the YMCA, the Jaguars and the I’m a Star Foundation on this initiative.

    “The reason for it is because they have a lack of access to healthy food a lot more on the Northeast side. Many families don’t have the economic wherewithal to provide all the food they need for their family,” Castillo said.

    The organizations say they're going to serve 3 1/2 to 4 million meals this summer alone, but their mission is to feed families long after the summer is over.

    "It’s an enormous amount of food that is there and yet the scary part is the need in our community is four times that amount,” Castillo said.

    That's why the community is encouraged to get involved by donating their time as a volunteer, or their money.

    “In Duval County alone, the economic shortfall is over $100 million. That means that families are having to decide between food and utilities, or food and medicine, or food and rent — to the tune of $100 million each year," Castillo told Action News Jax.

    Out of every dollar donated to the initiative, 97 cents goes to help families who really need it.

    “The importance of a good meal is so they can have a balanced day, too. Because if they are fed well, they act better," said Castillo.

    To find a Feeding Northeast Florida pantry near you, click here.

    To donate to Feeding Northeast Florida, click here.

    Schools districts in Duval, Nassau and Clay counties are also participating in programs that will provide free meals to students during the summer.

    Click here for information about Duval County, and click here for Nassau County participation.

    Clay County Free Summer Meal Program program flyer, click here.

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