By Thomas Mantz, president and CEO, Feeding Tampa Bay
Winning. It’s a theme in Tampa Bay these days. Beyond our sports teams – and even in the face of a global pandemic – this community has proven that we are unstoppable when we stand together. In fact, we’ve done such a great job that hundreds of thousands of people are flocking to the City of Champions, eager to build successful lives, careers, and businesses. But there are still countless issues confronting our future success, including a problem that impacts every single one of us – hunger.
Building and growing a healthy, diverse, and sustainable economy depends on the ability of today’s business leaders to fuel the future potential of our workforce. The most fundamental component of that fuel is food. At Feeding Tampa Bay, we see firsthand how hunger is at the core of many larger challenges for hardworking individuals and families in our region. We also see each day how access to food transforms what’s possible for so many in our community.
Recent research from our national affiliate, Feeding America, illustrates the direct correlation between hunger and education, poverty, health, and even wages. The data also identifies that people of color in the U.S. are disproportionately more likely to face difficulty in accessing adequate and healthy food for their families. This systemic issue is a driver of food insecurity, continuing the damaging cycle of our economic condition and ultimately eroding our region’s economic prosperity.
As leaders and a community of champions, we are responsible for positioning ending hunger among our leading business objectives.
Access for All – Increased access means decreased barriers
Ending hunger begins with increased access to healthy food. Creating a hunger-free Tampa Bay will mean that anyone who lacks consistent access to food or resources knows where to find it.
Hunger in America, especially Florida, isn’t exactly what you may think. Today, nearly 1 million of our neighbors across West Central Florida are food insecure, meaning they lack access to healthy, nutritious food needed to live active, healthy lives. This population isn’t limited to the homeless, the unemployed, or the disabled. In fact, the burden falls disproportionately on children, seniors, and communities with a concentration of Black and Hispanic families.
These hardworking individuals and families are faced with unimaginable decisions such as choosing between rent or food. When we end hunger by providing access to nutrition, we create the psychological space for these families to focus on improving their economic condition.
Brighter Futures – Impact of hunger on education
In schools across Tampa Bay, tens of thousands of schoolchildren receive their only meals for the day while at school.
Food is so much more than just sustenance. Healthy, nutritious foods lead to better behavioral and academic success for all children.
Research shows that children from food-insecure families are more likely to have lower math scores and repeat a grade, among other challenges.
When a child experiences chronic hunger, they struggle to fully engage with the community or world around them, and ultimately, they face developmental impairments in areas like language, motor skills, and behavior.
Fueling their future is our business.
Self-Sustainability – The first step to greater potential
Ending hunger may begin with access and a meal, but it truly ends when we equip people to develop opportunities and seek resources that lead to self-sustainability. In bringing people together around food, Feeding Tampa Bay has created the opportunity for individuals to achieve financial stability and, in turn, food security.
Through our programs like FRESHforce, we are going beyond a meal to provide workforce development and on-the-job training to individuals with barriers to employment. Through support from the business community, more than 100 people have graduated through the program to date, gaining experience in culinary, operations, and more.
Stake Your Stand
Economic prosperity requires good health for our employees and our community. As business leaders, we are best equipped to stake our stand for the future health and capability of this region.
Our business community is no stranger to victoriously solving problems. Ending hunger is no different. Our collective action can break the cycle and drive even greater property for generations to come.
Stake your stand to make ending hunger a business priority. Learn more at feedingtampabay.org/stand.