All children deserve the opportunity to live, learn, grow, and thrive in homes, schools, and neighborhoods that are supportive and safe.
Consistent access to nourishing food is key to their healthy development. Yet one in five children in Pinellas County do not have enough nutritious food for an active, healthy life.
More families than ever—two in five—live below the ALICE threshold, meaning they are employed but struggle to make ends meet. And while housing, utility, and food costs are rising. But paychecks aren’t.
Recognizing the extraordinary need, JWB’s Board invested in bulk food purchases and a centralized hub with the St. Petersburg Free Clinic (SPFC). In turn, the Free Clinic orchestrates the distribution of food to dozens of partner sites, feeding children and families countywide.
“While the pandemic saw historic numbers of families seeking food assistance, their need for nutritious food is only increasing, said Jennifer Yeagley, St. Petersburg Free Clinic CEO.
“Last year, JWB led the charge in SPFC’s ability to distribute more than 20.4 million pounds of food throughout Pinellas County, serving 1.2 million individuals in 2022 alone. They do this through distributing food to partner food pantries, churches, other nonprofit organizations, neighborhood family centers, and even preschools.”
On average, the Free Clinic serves more than 135,000 individuals a month across Pinellas County, a 51% increase year over year.
This is achieved thanks to dozens of food partners across the county, like Dunedin Cares.
Kristina Garcia, Dunedin Cares Director, said need has increased since the pandemic and many cannot afford to purchase healthy meals. They’ve seen recent spikes in families with children seeking help as federal food stamp (SNAP) benefits are decreasing due to federal funds for COVID/pandemic relief ending. Therefore, Dunedin Cares’ focus is on healthy food for families, like meats, dairy, eggs, fresh produce.
Another North County partner, FEAST, serves families five days a week, including evening hours for working families—and offers special things for families with children, like providing a birthday cake on a child’s birthday!
The Free Clinic also coordinates JWB’s funded food program, distributing pre-packaged meals to kids at schools, NFCs, and after school programs and filling food gaps during weekends and summers…to the tune of 200,000 meals last year!
Plus, through partnerships with 11 preschools, their Fresh Sprouts program fosters healthy eating habits for young children, zero to five, offering weekly fresh produce, recipe cards, and even interactive activity ideas to promote connection at mealtime for families!
The Free Clinic also partners with JWB’s Neighborhood Family Centers to stock their pantries and support food distribution efforts, reaching families where they live and serving special populations.
Anthony Verdeja, Family Center on Deafness Director, said, “We are so grateful for SPFC. The deaf community did try to take advantage of the food pantries in the area but were not able to communicate with the folks working there. We fill that need once a month.”
Verdeja also shared that many families are asking for more food, not necessarily for themselves, but to share with others in their neighborhood, and that these families feel more secure knowing that can receive as much food as they need.
Thanks to JWB’s investments in the St. Petersburg Free Clinic, Pinellas families can put healthy, nutritious food on their tables…and take at least one worry off their plates!
Jennifer Yeagley, St. Petersburg Free Clinic CEO, said, “We would not be able to keep children healthy, focused, and growing without the critical support of JWB.”
Watch the related video at https://youtu.be/4ydOe6LUkGk
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