One out of eight people in Florida face hunger, but the citizens of Clay County are making strides to impact that statistic.
February celebrated National Canned Food Month and the return of the College Drive Food Truck Night on February 24th. Members of the College Drive Initiative invited Food for Clay County to participate in the College Drive Food Truck Night and host a non-perishable food drive to help replenish low inventory due to high demand. College Drive Food Truck Night Event Sponsor, Legacy in Action, greeted guests with a Lady and the Tramp Italian Café themed booth that accepted non-perishable ingredients to make a pasta dish to add to the fun. Star Wars characters help those donating food to fill the collection bins and by the end of the event, 418 pounds of food were en route to the warehouse where Food for Clay County operates from. “The College Drive Initiative was so very grateful to partner with Food for Clay County at our February Food Truck Night event. Gathering food for our neighbors in need is what the Helping Highway is all about,” explains Connie Thomas, CEO/President of Impact Clay.
February 28th, HCA Middleburg hosts a Shred for Spring event, where individuals could drop off their documents for secure shredding by Shred for Good in exchange for a food donation to Food for Clay County. Before the event began, there were cars already lined up and ready to fill the bins. Patrick Flanagan, Project Manager for Shred for Good, often heard from the participants how happy they were that an event like Shred for Spring was taking place in Middleburg. In just two short hours, 2581 pounds of documents were collected for secure document destruction and 422 pounds of food was collected for Food for Clay County.
Food for Clay County began in March 2020, then-Mayor Connie Thomas presented a Countywide feeding proposal to Impact Clay. This proposal became the Food for Clay County community impact project, with the goal of creating a central hub for food donations and volunteers alike to come together to assist the food banks and pantries. In April 2020, Impact Clay launched the Facebook page for Food for Clay County as part of their communications plan and the call for volunteers and food began to circulate around social media channels. Food distribution events began popping up by mid-April and quickly became the lifeline so many families and individuals needed during the pandemic. Food for Clay County provided more than just non-perishable food items and as more food distribution events came online, the need for industrial-sized cold storage became essential.
June 2021, Challenge Enterprises of North Florida, Inc. was able to offer recently purchased refrigeration units, freezer, and refrigeration trailer, along with the volunteers and staff to help fulfill the need. With a rally of thirty-seven volunteers over a three-day period, Food for Clay County shifted operations from Reynold Park Port to the Challenge Enterprises warehouse in Green Cove Springs. This first load consisted of fifty pallets, that when processed by the volunteers created 1,230 boxes of food distributed to families in Clay County. Each box is packed to feed a family of four for seven days.
Today, the Food for Clay County program is still going strong distributing 1300 boxes a month through several monthly distribution sites, as well as supporting local food pantries with requested needs. The partnership of Feeding Northeast Florida and Route End consistently provides between 35,000 to 50,000 lbs. of food each month, consisting of produce, dairy, meats, frozen meals, deli, bread, pastries, water, etc. Personal health, hygiene, and household items have been added to the offering.
Food for Clay County has also expanded its offerings to include partnerships with United Health Care and the Veteran Administration to assist veterans and individuals with getting the most out of their healthcare benefits.