1 in 6 Central Floridians are struggling with the reality of hunger and food insecurity. Here are some of their stories.
Crystal says her family of six was comfortable before the pandemic hit. "There were times we had to rob Peter to pay Paul, but nothing like what we've had to do this year." Read story
"I have no idea what we would have done if we hadn't been able to connect with the pantry." Read story
"When we left, we had all of the essentials that we had just taken for granted before. We are so grateful." Read story
"When I was working, I had pride in myself. I've learned to be humble and ask for help. It's hard to do that, but I'm grateful." Read story
"I was embarrassed and ashamed. So much time passed and I dug myself into a bigger and bigger hole." Read story
"I've never asked for help before. I didn't know where to start," Carlos explained. His main concern was for his two school-aged daughters who rely on breakfast and lunch at their elementary school." Read story
"When I think of food insecurity on college campuses, it's heartbreaking," explains Naseeka Dixon, manager at the Knights Helping Knights Pantry at UCF. "Food is something everyone needs." Read story
"I don't want people to think I don't care or can't care for my kids," Shelby explains. "Sometimes, all my good intentions just aren't enough." Read story
If you'd met Tikaya two years ago, you would say she was on the right track. She graduated from Jones High School, earned an associate's degree and completed cosmetology training. Read story
Ten years ago, Rachel was a typical teenager. When the Great Recession hit, both of her parents were laid off from their jobs and suddenly their little income and savings were gone. Read story
Like many families who live paycheck to paycheck, Heather and her husband try to keep their budget simple. She tries to instill the values of appreciation and gratitude in their six children for the things they do have. Read story
Alaina and Nola are best friends. And like best friends, they have many things in common. They share a love of unicorns and silly songs. Every day after school they play games, do homework and have a warm meal at a Second Harvest Food Bank Kids Café. Read story
Thelisha feels the added pressure of providing for her son, Malik, during the summer months. From the end of May until mid-August, she has additional expenses for meals and childcare to factor into her already tight budget. Read story
Michele feels like she’s been given a second chance at life. After decades of being a victim of domestic violence and sexual abuse, she said enough is enough. Read story
For more than 20 years, Susan worked at a factory. It was a good job that provided for her while she raised her daughter. Then one day the factory closed. Susan lost her job and her health insurance. Read story
It's amazing what a hand up can make. When we first met Kelly, she was struggling to survive. Fast forward, her husband is celebrating his one-year work anniversary, and her family is getting back on their feet. Read story
With just a few days left until students head home for a 17-day holiday break, Second Harvest and Orange County Public Schools and Nutrition Services partnered to help ease the burden of hunger for the 9th year in a row. Read story
Every day was a new challenge for Amelia after she came home one day to find her husband had abaonded their family. Devastated, but determined, Amelia fought against all odds to pull her family through dark times. Read story
Like most parents, Shelly wants the best for her kids. A single mother and former home health aide, she has found herself in a place she never thought would be the best place for her and her daughter to be: a homeless shelter. Read story
At nine years old, Sam had the weight of the world on his shoulders. In the last year, he had lost his dad and his home. On a rainy afternoon, he and his mom walked into one of Second Harvest’s feeding partners at their wits end, tired, hungry, and wet. Read story
At Midway, David and Jamil receive fresh, hot meals every day after school and at lunchtime during the summer. These meals contribute to their overall health, ability to learn and earn better grades while increasing their chances of success. Read story
Tammi was running her family’s aviation business when a series of laws came into effect in Florida that were made retroactive. Through no fault of her own, Tammi was forced to close her family business. She and her husband had three young boys to feed and turned to a food pantry to help. Read story
Like many Central Floridians, Joan’s family was barely getting by, until a crisis interrupted. In this new normal, she struggles to make ends meet on her limited income. She has found relief at St. Rose of Lima, a pantry in Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida’s network of feeding partners. Once a month Joan is able to fill a wagon with dry goods, fresh bread, meat, dairy and produce.
Shandra went from a full-time job down to part-time in order to complete the program. She had to take a step back in order to move forward, and it has been worth it. Her dream to cook is now providing a better life for Shandra, her husband, James, and their four children. Read story
Michel’le Snell grew up with her grandmother and the two spent many days in the kitchen making family recipes. But when her grandmother’s house was foreclosed, Michel’le and her three daughters had to find a new place to live. With no job and no car, she spent her income tax return on two month’s rent.
Solinee Dulcio was recognized at the Top Student at last fall’s Culinary Training Program graduation. Originally from Haiti, Soline struggled with depression and unemployment before applying to the program. Today she is employed full-time at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort as a prep cook.
Anna and her son are one of many working families struggling to find good paying jobs, keep up with bills and have enough food on their table. Anna has worked 40 hours per week in retail for many years but recently her hours were reduced. Read story
For many seniors today a relaxing retirement is an unattainable dream.
According to Generations United, about 2.5 million grandparents are
responsible for their grandchildren’s needs, like Anita. She is a
resident in Orlando’s Washington Park neighborhood and cares for four
grandchildren, ages 5, 8, 9 and 11.
Katherine is just weeks away from completing Second Harvest’s Culinary
Training Program as part of the first Spanish-language class. In the
past she has worked at a bakery, but steady work has been a challenge.
Then, last fall, Hurricane Maria devastated her town in Puerto Rico.
Miguel lost everything when Hurricane Maria devasted Puerto Rico in Fall of 2017. His story is 1 in over 140,000 Puerto Ricans who have arrived in Central Florida since the storm, but with the help of Second Harvest's Culinary Training Program, he is working toward rebuilding his life for him and his daughter.
Hunger can be a disaster year round. Add to that the disruption and devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria and this holiday season could be a recipe for disaster for thousands of Central Florida families and displaced Puerto Ricans. Here are some of their stories:
Christina enlisted in the Air Force after high school. She remembers the sense of pride and accomplishment she felt after completing basic training. She went on to serve as a surgery tech in Desert Storm. After returning from war, she became sick and received a medical retirement. Retirement was a blessing because she was so ill, but also an unexpected disruption in her life. Within two weeks, she lost her job, her income and her personal identity.
Susan Anderson always loved cooking. When her wages stagnated, she lost her car and then her home, Susan applied to Second Harvest Food Bank's 14- week Culinary Training Program with the hope of a new beginning for her family. "I was working in retail management and food service but my career was stalled," recalls Anderson.
When Shandra started the Culinary Training Program at Second Harvest, she had no clue how much it was going to change her life for the better. She faced a lot of challenges heading in to the program, but along the way found the support and strength she needed to climb over those hurdles and flourish. Read and be inspired by Shandra's amazing story, and how she has been since leaving the program.
Chef Kenneth Neil is a graduate of Second Harvest's Culinary Training Program. This program provides qualified, at-risk and economically disadvantaged adults with the culinary and life skills training needed to pursue a sustainable career in the food industry.
Have you ever had to eat "air puddin'" because you didn't have enough to eat? Cordie does when there isn't enough food to go around for her and her three great grandkids. Watch Cordie's story to learn how Second Harvest feeding partners like The Woodbury Church are helping to make a difference in the lives of so many of our Central Florida seniors and families.
Homeless and struggling, Theodore was looking for a second chance when he started in our 14-week Culinary Training Program. Now graduated, he has been able to turn his life around and find hope.
Fred is 78-years old, and ‘recently retired.’ Actually, he had made no plans to stop working, but was forced to do so when the company he worked for made some changes. Because he was mostly a lower-wage earner his entire life, Fred never managed to sock away huge sums for his later years. He had saved a reasonable amount for emergencies, but that went pretty quickly in the months following his job loss. His unemployment benefits ran out as well.
Jeffrey is an eighth grade student in Orange County with big dreams to be a motorcycle mechanic one day. He is also a part of a growing percentage of public school students in Central Florida who are eligible for free or reduced meals because of their family's economic situation, and rely on the nutrition they get from school.
For four months, 66-year old disabled widow Paula found herself with no electricity or running water in her apartment. Her $500 a month rent was past due, and with a fixed income of only $700, each month was a series of hard decisions. Until she met Delia, a Second Harvest Outreach Specialist.
Hector worked in the civil service industry for over 25 years, until a back injury started to deteriorate his health. At home, he supported both his parents and siblings until his condition worsened.
When Judie's husband Paul lost his job as a Civil Engineer during the Great Recession, all the air was let out of the family's financial balloon. Being homeless was beyond the family's wildest imagination, even just a year before when they had felt so secure.
James and Melanie are both young, college-educated adults with two young children. Recently, Melanie learned that her company was down-sizing and lost her job. They cut back in all the ways they could think of, and sacrificed many of their 'comforts.' Melanie began looking for work immediately, but was not successful. When James learned just one month later that his job, too, was going to disappear, the family faced a true calamity.