As the community faces an unprecedented public health crisis, a network of local restaurants, hotels and hospitality industry organizations have joined forces alongside the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to launch Feed the Need Florida, a program that provides needed meals to food-insecure students and their families across Orange County and the state of Florida.
The Florida Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program provides funding to distribute meals to students in need, however the program does not provide meals for other family members. 4Roots, the nonprofit entity sponsoring the Feed the Need Florida program, will come alongside the local public school systems throughout the state to provide donated meals to the many families in need.
“There is an unprecedented need for students and families to have immediate and easy access to fresh, nutritious meals,” said John Rivers, CEO and founder of 4Roots and 4R Restaurant Group. “In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, we felt an obligation to rally the industry to help fill gaps in Florida’s ‘grab and go’ program, and also ensure that the families of these students likewise have access to meals. We are so thankful to have in this effort state government as well as restaurant, hotel, food distributor and corporate partners who share our heart to step up and meet this need. We are blessed to be in a position to serve in this capacity and hope individuals and businesses alike will join us in meeting the need.”
Feed the Need Florida is in direct coordination with the Florida Department of Agriculture to identify sites where meal distribution is needed.
“Fighting back against the worst pandemic in a century requires innovative solutions, especially to keep families from going hungry,” said Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried. “We’re so grateful to partner with Chef John Rivers, 4Roots, and the 4R Restaurant Group on this extraordinary effort to ensure Floridians can feed their families during this public health crisis. This partnership is a perfect example of working together to overcome enormous obstacles and leverage food service, hospitality, corporate, and government resources to fill critical gaps in food supply. We truly are all in this together, and together, we will feed the need.”
Building a Community Kitchen Network to Feed the Need
The 4R Restaurant Group will leverage its 4 Rivers BBQ resources to support the meal preparation and distribution across the state in coordination with the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association and the Florida Department of Agriculture. 4Roots activated a 25,000-square-foot warehouse space in Orlando to receive food from the hospitality and restaurant industry to prepare meals in the 4 Rivers 8,000-square-foot commissary kitchen in Orlando. They will also partner with the state to establish food collection, meal prep and distribution points to fill gaps in other counties via the 14 restaurant locations 4 Rivers has throughout Florida. As the program expands, Feed the Need Florida will develop a network of restaurant and catering partners to serve the anticipated growing need to address community hunger.
“Our industry is truly made up of the very best people,” said Carol Dover, President and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. “Despite being significantly impacted themselves by the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurateurs across Florida are stepping up to fill critical needs for food. We are proud to join 4R Restaurant Group, 4Roots, and our many other restaurants who are making a difference during this difficult time. Not only will these efforts help students, families, and seniors, but they will help support whole communities needing extra help when they need it most.”
Together, the program establishes a system to receive food donations, preserve jobs, and prepare nutritious meals to be served to thousands of families of students throughout Florida who rely on free and reduced-price school meals.
The program would not be possible without the support of the entire Florida restaurant and hospitality community, including support from FreshPoint and Walmart with additional in-kind and monetary donations coming from other partners. It’s a model leaders say could be replicated by school districts, state governments and community partners across the country.
How can you help? There are two ways individuals and corporations can participate:
- Donate now at feedtheneedfl.org. 4Roots is accepting monetary donations as well as food donations from restaurants, the hospitality industry and other corporations.
- Spread the word and encourage others to contribute to support Feed the Need Florida via social media using the hashtag #FeedtheNeedFL.
For more information, visit feedtheneedfl.org.
4Roots is an Orlando-based nonprofit community alliance founded by Chef John Rivers of the 4R Restaurant Group, dedicated to building a better food future and ending food insecurity in our community. In 2019, the organization began laying the foundation for its farm campus in the heart of Orlando to serve as a community crossroads where individuals and organizations work together to engage a holistic approach to food systems change, focusing on health, education, economic development, and sustainability. For more information, visit 4rootsfarm.org or follow along on Facebook and Instagram.