October is Hunger Awareness Month, and an important time to focus on hunger in our community. It’s estimated that 220,000 people in Broward County face food instability every day and, sadly, 67,000 of them are children.
Before the pandemic even began, 50 percent of households in Broward County were ALICE families (Asset Limited, Income Constrained and Employed) and those living below the federal poverty level. They were already one crisis away from disaster, and then the pandemic hit. Jobs and wages were lost. More families were in need – and hungry.
Many of these individuals and families have turned to Project Lifeline, an innovative nutritional food bulk purchasing and distribution program created by United Way of Broward County in 2009 in response to the economic crisis.
Traditionally, food banks have offered clients only canned and packaged foods and other items considered pantry-stable. Concerned about nutrition and variety, and simply wanting people to enjoy the pleasure of a fresh apple or a homemade chicken dish, United Way of Broward County came up with another approach: Project Lifeline. The program purchases and delivers fresh, nutritious food, including fruits and vegetables, meats, rice, beans, grains and canned goods – even ice cream! – to a network of food banks and feeding programs throughout Broward County. Deliveries are made on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis, depending on the need/volume of clientele visiting each site. The type of food (perishable/non-perishable) is also determined by the capacity of each pantry to store food. Pantry needs are reviewed on an ongoing basis. Satisfaction in food quality, food delivery and overall operation of the program are also gauged throughout the year.
And it’s worked. Since inception, Project Lifeline has purchased and delivered more than 14.5 million pounds of nutritious, fresh food to clients through 25 sites in our community. This year, to further serve even more people (especially in light of the pandemic), Project Lifeline has expanded to a total of 35 locations across the county.
FEEDING HUNGRY INDIVIDUALS AND FAMILIES
One of the unique aspects of Project Lifeline is the way food is shared with hungry individuals and families. Some sites offer weekly food pickups for registered clients; The Pantry, for example, specializes in providing 55-pound boxes of fresh groceries to over-60 seniors and grandparents with children at home. Meanwhile, for people living in homeless shelters, Project Lifeline food is cooked up into delicious, often imaginative meals and served three times a day to residents. Bag lunches are even prepared and distributed to those residents who are working, seeking employment or going to school.
COVID-19 has placed extra challenges on the Project Lifeline sites, and required them to be creative. Early on in the pandemic, The Pantry had volunteers delivering food packages directly to homes to protect the safety of its older clientele. Some sites partnered with national food-delivery companies. Prevention Central has a drive-through distribution, with 300 people receiving groceries from their cars each week.
SUPPORTING PROJECT LIFELINE
Project Lifeline receives funding through United Way of Broward County’s annual campaign, as well as through the generosity of sponsors like The Watts Foundation and The Jim Moran Foundation. As a funder for the past 13 years, The Jim Moran Foundation has contributed in excess of $3 million.
“No one should have to go to bed hungry,” said Chairman and President Jan Moran of The Jim Moran Foundation. “We have supported United Way’s Project Lifeline since its beginning to give children, families, individuals and seniors the same food options that we would serve in our homes. Through this partnership, we are making an immediate impact on the health and wellbeing of those who are hurting.”
Such generosity means the world to a client like Alice. She is deeply grateful for the food she has been receiving for her family from Prevention Central for the past five years. “It means a lot, because I have five grandchildren living with me,” she said.
Project Lifeline is just one of many programs created and operated by United Way of Broward County. In all, our United Way funds more than 100 programs that fight for the health, education and financial prosperity of EVERY person in our community. To make a donation, click here.