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Intersection: Hunger In Central Florida

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Volunteers sort food at Second Harvest of Central Florida's distribution Center in Orlando. Photo: Matthew Peddie, WMFE

Volunteers sort food at Second Harvest of Central Florida's distribution Center in Orlando. Photo: Matthew Peddie, WMFE

If you’re back at work this week after the Thanksgiving weekend- chances are there are some leftovers in your fridge. But for some Central Florida residents the holiday season is not a time of abundance-  and some- students, the elderly, or working families- will go hungry.

Just how bad is the hunger problem? One in six people will at some point struggle to buy food to eat.

Greg Higgerson, Vice President of Development at Second Harvest Food Bank, says demand forced them into a huge new warehouse. Intersection takes a look at how this modern food bank is working to overcome some of the logistical challenges of getting food to a growing number hungry people.

“There’s never been a shortage of food in America,” says Higgerson.

“In fact we have so much we can’t even consume it as a population, which is why there’s a lot of extra food. We deal, here at the food bank, with that extra food.”

Sarah Gurtis is the CEO of the Council On Aging of Volusia County. Photo: Matthew Peddie, WMFE

Sarah Gurtis is the CEO of the Council On Aging of Volusia County. Photo: Matthew Peddie, WMFE

Lots of seniors rely on Meals on Wheels. in Volusia County where towns are miles apart, it takes a lot of coordination to get hot meals to hungry seniors. Sarah Gurtis, CEO of the Council On Aging in Volusia County talks about how her organizations feeds those seniors. The first step is finding out who they are, she says.

“They’re just on on the grid,” says Gurtis.

“So we have to get more clever in how we reach them.”

You may not think of hunger and college students, But at UCF, students started the Knight’s Pantry back in 2009. It’s still going strong. A look at how student hunger fits into the picture, with pantry manager Jessica Roberts, and Sarah Maton, one of the original students who helped start the pantry. 

Take a tour of the Second Harvest’s 100,000 sq. ft distribution center below:

Trucks unload donated food at the distribution warehouse
Volunteers repack food inside the 100,000 square foot warehouse for distribution to area charities.
Food is shipped to Second Harvest in banana boxes
These banana boxes are packed with canned goods and other food items
Cans maybe slightly dented- but the contents are fine
Second Harvest has a massive walk-in freezer
The freezer's shelves rise 30 ft. to the ceiling
Pallets of chicken
Meat and other frozen goods
Big bins of sweet potatoes line one wall of the chiller
Forklifts are used to transfer food to the end of the warehouse where it's loaded up for distribution
Local food pantries and other charities back their trucks up at this loading bay
Volunteers can keep tabs on how much food has been shipped out on this display screen
Sacks of onions ready to be shipped out
Soft drinks and canned food ready for distribution
Greg Higgerson, Second Harvest of Central Florida's Vice President of Development
Second Harvest's commercial kitchen provides thousands of meals for Orange County Public Schools' head start program. The kitchen has also trained over 100 chefs for new careers in the culinary industry.
Second Harvest moved into it's 100,000 sq ft. warehouse when it outgrew its old facility

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Matthew Peddie

About Matthew Peddie

Host of WMFE's Intersection & Assistant News Director

Matthew Peddie grew up in New Zealand and studied journalism at the University of Western Ontario. After graduating with an MA in Journalism he returned to Christchurch, working as a reporter for Radio Live and Radio New Zealand. He’s reported live from the scene of earthquakes, criminal trials and rugby ... Read Full Bio »