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Robin Safley: Food banks are critical to solving hunger in Florida

Working with child nutrition programs and The Emergency Food Assistance Program the past four years have raised my awareness of the hunger issues in Florida.  As Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam said at our first hunger forum in 2014, it’s immoral that anyone should be hungry in a state with as much abundance as ours and that it’s imminently solvable.

Hunger is a complex problem. In order to solve it, we must understand the underlying issues and apply comprehensive solutions to assist those in need.  We know that access to a consistent supply of nutritious food is critical to the underlying health of our families and the academic achievement of our children.  There’s no better platform to take on those issues than as executive director of the Florida Association of Food Banks (FAFB).

The FAFB supports a statewide network of over 2,500 food banks and partner agencies that feed every community every day to ensure a hunger-free Florida. FAFB works to coordinate and maximize the networks’ efforts to better provide a healthy and adequate food supply to over 2.5 million individuals. That makes FAFB the lead organization in the fight against hunger in Florida. It’s also a unified voice bringing necessary change to Florida’s Capitol regarding hunger and food insecurity by focusing on each community’s needs.

Florida’s food banks partner with schools, healthcare providers, community agencies and philanthropic organizations to ensure those in need have access to food and are connected to other support organizations within the community.

My goals are to build on the foundation previously established at FAFB surrounding the nutritional value of the food provided through the network and also to increase efforts around agriculture and nutrition education. Leveraging the agriculture curriculum efforts under way at the Division of Food, Nutrition and Wellness, we will ensure that the nutritional message is reinforced at the household level.

With fresh Florida produce, the importance of aligning food supply and consumption is critical to minimizing waste and optimizing access to healthy food. As a food bank network, I see our mission as creating a strategic plan for a dynamic food system where Florida’s families are fed first.

I believe there are economic development opportunities through strategic sourcing, identification of resource gaps, and consolidation of previously segregated supply chains. By creating a more interactive network, we have the opportunity through creative sourcing to benefit both Florida’s school system as well as the food bank network in utilizing cosmetically imperfect produce at a better cost while reducing waste.

Though I have a lot to learn in this arena, I am committed to innovation and I have no doubt that together we can make the commissioner’s vision a reality.

Robin Safley has been appointed executive director of the Florida Association of Food Banks (FAFB). Safley has over 15 years of experience in promoting health within the education realm and over 20 years of experience implementing legislative development on behalf of various government organizations. 

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