ALACHUA COUNTY, FL. - The public is invited to participate in the City of Gainesville - Alachua County Hunger Summit, the first step of an initiative to develop a Hunger Abatement Plan (to be developed by April, 2009) for Alachua County. The Hunger Summit will address the growing problem of hunger in Alachua County. It will take place on Thursday, September 18, 2008 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Martin Luther King Jr. Activity Center located at 1028 NE 14 Street, Gainesville. The Summit is co-sponsored by City of Gainesville, Alachua County, the Alachua County Medical Society, Alachua County School Board, Florida Department of Children & Families (DC&F), and United Way of North Central Florida.
The keynote speaker, Ms. Kate Houston, is the USDA administrator in charge of the Food Stamp program nationwide. Other speakers include Doug Beach, Florida Secretary for Elder Affairs; Don Winstead, Florida Deputy Secretary for DC&F; and Janie Williams, Chair of Alachua County School Board.
Only about half of the residents in Alachua County who are eligible for food stamps receive them, leaving more than $18 million in food assistance benefits "on the table" annually. Tons of food are discarded weekly by restaurants and grocery stores. Only half of the children eligible to eat free and reduced meals at school do so. Elders face special nutritional needs, but frequently do without proper nutrition. Local charities, churches, and other food assistance agencies face vastly increased demand for help, coupled with reductions in donations. Please plan to attend (and bring a non-perishable food item to donate to Bread of the Mighty Food Bank) to learn what the community can do to access existing available resources to make adequate nutrition available to elders, children, families, persons with disabilities, persons with fixed low incomes, and working people throughout the county.
"Other states and communities do a vastly superior job of feeding those unable to feed themselves." said Alachua County Poverty Reduction Director John Skelly, "The solutions exist and are well known. The planning and will to improve our performance is all that is needed. We urge those interested to be part of the solution, attend and volunteer to participate in the development of the Hunger Abatement Plan."
In support of the "Hunger Summit", there will be a "Strike Out Hunger Food Drive" on Tuesday September 16, 2008 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Citizen Field parking area at Waldo Road and 8th Avenue. Hosting this event is Commissioner Rodney Long, Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners, who is inviting the public to join him in a 12 hour hunger strike to bring awareness to the problem of hunger in Alachua County. Citizens and businesses are urged to drop off non-perishable food donations. All donations will be collected and distributed to non-profit food distribution agencies.