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Help feed Hurricane Maria's 50,000 refugees in FL

by MEANS Database, Inc.
Help feed Hurricane Maria's 50,000 refugees in FL
Help feed Hurricane Maria's 50,000 refugees in FL
Help feed Hurricane Maria's 50,000 refugees in FL
Help feed Hurricane Maria's 50,000 refugees in FL
Help feed Hurricane Maria's 50,000 refugees in FL
Seminole County Health Department Flyer
Seminole County Health Department Flyer

The MEANS Database team remains committed to fighting food insecurity in Central Florida by creating new partnerships and increasing outreach to food donors and emergency food providers. According to Second Harvest, nearly 105 million more meals a year are needed to fill the meal gap in Central Florida alone. To deliver more available meals to hungry individuals, we’ve teamed up with the Seminole County Health Department to spread the word about our food recovery system. The attached flyer aims to inform Central Florida emergency food providers they have the opportunity to receive free food by signing up on our website. 

Additionally, our team has recently launched a nation-wide donor engagement program to give back to our generous food donors and encourage more food donors signed up. The program consists of two parts: the donor profile series and the donor badge. The donor profile series features interviews with current and past donors, allowing our network to get to know the individuals who so kindly donate their excess food. The donor badge is a “MEANS Food Donor” window cling we’ve sent out to frequent food donors, allowing them to show their community what they do with their excess food. We will send out more donor badges as more donors sign up and donate through our website! 

If you have any questions about our partnership with Seminole County Health Department or want to get involved in our donor engagement program, feel free to reach out to hannah@meansdatabase.org or centralflorida@meansdatabase.org.  Thank you for following our journey to combat food waste and hunger! 

In Central Florida, 1 in 6 people are food insecure. Food insecurity implies there is a lack of available financial resources for food at the level of the household. Recently, many Puerto Rican refugees have relocated to Orlando, Florida, and in turn we’ve narrowed our focus to Central Florida. We have teamed up with a group of six Americorps Vistas located in Orlando to develop a strong food recovery network. Thus far, they’ve helped us make incredible progress by reaching out to more than 200 potential food donors and 150 food recipients.

About 24 pounds of food enters Central Florida’s landfills every second. The immense amounts of food waste contribute to the production of an extremely harmful greenhouse gas, methane. Methane is the main contributor to various environmental problems like global warming. In the first two decades after its release, methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The more we build our food recovery network, the less food waste will go into landfills and instead toward individuals facing hunger.

Over time, we’ve had many inquiries from people all over the country about how to bring MEANS to their  community. To help those individuals, we’ve developed an Ambassador Program outlining exactly how to do outreach to both nearby food donors and food recipients. It walks ambassadors through clear steps to build a food recovery network around them. We officially released applications on March 8th. The program is designed for individuals who have a passion for food recovery and the determination to take action and want to know how. If this sounds like something that would interest you, please fill out this form and feel free to contact julia@meansdatabase.org for any questions!

Thank you for all of your help and for your interest in our project. If you have any questions or want to get involved in our mission, you can reach out to us at centralflorida@meansdatabase.org!

Over the last few months, MEANS has gained new users throughout Florida, especially in the Jacksonville area. Similarly to our last report, many of these users found us organically. Our Executive Director and Co-Founder, Maria Rose Belding, was honored as one of this year’s Top 10 CNN Heroes for her work with MEANS. She was introduced by Will Ferrell and her speech was seen by over 600,000 people. This has led to a huge influx of new users and volunteers, many in the Florida area, so we’re trying to connect with all of them!

So far, most of our new users in Florida have been recipient organizations. Recipient organizations are nonprofits like food pantries, food banks, shelters, and more. In other states and cities where MEANS works, we have found we need approximately 5-10 recipient organizations per donor in order to have donations be successfully claimed on a regular basis.

Now that we are approaching that number, we are beginning to shift our focus to food donor recruitment. Later this month we are sending out our “Getting Started” guide for volunteers. We have had many inquiries from those who want to spread the word about MEANS to their favorite restaurants and food establishments. This kit will include the everything volunteers need to become MEANS experts and recruit new donors.

We have secured a translator who will be translating the entire MEANS website into Spanish to make it accessible to those who either do not speak English, or speak it as a second language. Currently, MEANS is available in Arabic, Urdu, and Persian thanks to our partnership with Islamic Relief USA. We’re excited to make our site accessible in even more languages!

Links:

Our Current Users In Florida
Our Current Users In Florida

In the last few months MEANS has been working heavily on our outreach to increase our user base in Florida. Since our last report, we have been lucky enough to be featured in several national news broadcasts, including CNN Heroes, and the NBC Nightly News. These features have raised our profile and helped us add users organically. Since these users have sought us out they are very interested in the program and motivated to participate.

In our last report, we mentioned a potential partnership with José Andres’ team. Unfortunately, they had to reschedule our meeting due to their busy schedules helping those in need, including those impacted by the wildfires in California, and the earthquake in Indonesia. We still hope to work with them and are working on rescheduling our meeting when they have more time.

MEANS addresses the communication gap in food donations, but the challenge of logistics remains for a lot of organizations, especially those with fewer resources and volunteers. To that end, we have begun to expand our partnership with another food recovery organization that does just that. In our previous pilot with this organization, we have been able to recover about 20 times as much food in the city where we are partnered, as we did when we worked in the same city alone. This organization is currently expanding in Florida as well, so expanding our existing partnership makes perfect sense.

Behind the scenes, we are continuing our work of translating the entire MEANS website into Spanish to make it more accessible. We were also reached out to about a feature on Telemundo, which would greatly increase our presence in the Spanish speaking community in Florida, so we are pursuing that as well.

In August, MEANS reached a total of 2 million pounds of food recovered in the last three years. We could not have done this work without you. As always, thank you, thank you for your support. You help us continue to feed those in need.

Links:

The postcard we are sending to potential partners
The postcard we are sending to potential partners

For the past few months, we have been heavily focused on preparing the underlying infrastructure our site needs to be accessible to a primarily Spanish speaking audience. Prior to the start of this project our forward-facing site was only available in English, as was the app. We’ve been working with our native Spanish speaking team members to translate all the text on our site. We plan to have that content live within the next month.

Our team also connected with José Andres’ team after being inspired by their impressive work and commitment to Puerto Rico’s disaster relief. After exchanging a few emails, our teams plan to meet on June 21 to discuss collaboration and best practices. Playing off of each other’s strengths will help make the most impact for Puerto Rico and the disaster’s refugees.

Another potential partner is Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, a fellow food recovery nonprofit. Their system is in fewer cities but offers transportation, which makes donations move much more successfully. RLC has a small branch in Miami, a city that received one of the largest influxes of Puerto Rican refugees. They are very interested in growing their network in Florida through a partnership with us.

To sign up nonprofit users in Florida, we plan to use postcard outreach as our primary method. We’ve previously found that the majority of published phone numbers for food pantries are incorrect, disconnected, or no one answers the phone. Because of that, we will be sending postcards in both English and Spanish to nonprofits in Florida that feed the hungry.

To sign up food donor users in Florida, we hope to use José Andres’ restaurant industry contacts in the region. We are hoping to exhibit or attend multiple industry events in the area, such as the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Show in September, and other national food industry events.

By improving our own site’s accessibility and partnering with an experienced Puerto Rican relief group, we hope MEANS’ technology can be used as a tool to alleviate food insecurity both on the island and in communities of refugees in Florida, as originally planned.

Back of the postcard
Back of the postcard

Links:

 

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Organization Information

MEANS Database, Inc.

Location: Washington, DC - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @MEANSDatabase
Project Leader:
Zoey Jordan Salsbury
Washington, DC United States
$3,860 raised of $5,000 goal
 
47 donations
$1,140 to go
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