Today on the Episode, I’m talking with two wonderful women from Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. Sasha Hausman is the Director of Philanthropy and Kelly Quintero is the Director of Advocacy and Government Relations. Together, they work as advocates for Second Harvest’s many programs.
In our episode, we discuss what food insecurity is and how you can help Second Harvest feed the hungry population in Central Florida. Plus, there are so many other programs they facilitate too.
1) Second Harvest is the largest safety net for food assistance here in Central Florida.
One in six families in Central Florida suffer from food insecurity. In one year, Second Harvest is able to collect and distribute about 54 million meals in collaboration with 550 other nonprofits like Coalition for the Homeless, Boys and Girls Club, and Salvation Army, just to name a few. Through these distribution partners, 48,000 people get fed each day.
Much of the food Second Harvest receives is food that would have been thrown away, but is still perfectly good. Dented boxes, special run products, and produce that is too small for sale all finds its way to Second Harvest’s 100,000-square-foot warehouse. “I would like to think of us not just as a hunger relief organization, but an environmental one as well,” Sasha told me.
Without the efforts of Second Harvest, or their network of suppliers and distributors, so many Central Floridian families would go hungry every single day.
“People can’t help if they don’t know there is an issue and that there is a solution,” Kelly told me.
Kelly’s job as Director of Advocacy and Government Relations is to connect and educate elected officials and community leaders about how Second Harvest helps feed Central Floridians. As a former lobbyist who worked in Tallahassee, Kelly grew restless of how long it took to see tangible change through government policy. At Second Harvest, she can now see the impact of her job on a daily basis.
As the Director of Philanthropy, Sasha is able to work with donors who help fund Second Harvest. Through her position, she educates donors and encourages them to get involved to help solve Central Florida’s hunger problem. “Of all the issues we have in this world, hunger is one of the things we can totally solve,” Sasha told me. “It just takes more people to love and care about this issue.”
2) Second Harvest innovates how they can help the community.
While the main focus at the food bank is to supply hungry families with food across Central Florida, Sasha told me they have been really innovative with how they provide additional programs and income streams to Second Harvest. Additional income streams help provide revenue so they can feed more hungry families.
For example, you can party for a cause through Second Harvest. They have a beautiful conference room that is available to rent for community events. On-site and off-site catering is also available because of a 2000-foot commercial kitchen.
The kitchen also serves as a training kitchen for adults who need practical job skills so they can enter the workforce. Individuals work in the kitchen, learning skills needed in other commercial kitchens. At the end of the program, Second Harvest helps with resume writing and job placement too! “It’s our first ever glimpse of not just feeding the line, but shorting the line,” Sasha said.
In addition to helping adults get a second chance, Second Harvest works with government contracts to package meals for kids every day for programs like Healthy Start. Sasha told me she loves the High-Five program that facilitates a meal program to kids who have food insecurity on the weekends. So kids don’t show up to school on Monday with headaches and stomachaches due to hunger, teachers discreetly put meals in children’s backpacks on Friday so they have food to eat until they return back to school on Monday.
Disaster relief is another area of focus for Second Harvest. “We have disaster boxes at all times in their facility,” Kelly said.
They have had a busy season as they helped provide relief for families affected not just in Central Florida by Hurricane Irma, but also in Houston after Hurricane Harvey, and Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. In fact, representatives from Second Harvest are helping Puerto Ricans who have been displaced to Florida. They meet many of them right at the airport with a fresh meal and information on how to sign up for all the government benefits they’ll need.
3) Sasha and Kelly have both been affected by stories of food insecurity.
Sasha found herself looking for any job after college when a radio station job didn’t work out due to the recession. On the job, Sasha memorized a bunch of facts about Second Harvest, but never suffered from food insecurity herself. About two weeks into her time at Second Harvest, she met a woman named Stephanie while tabling a booth at Stephanie’s company.
Stephanie shared a story about how she too was new at her company, but due to being unemployed for six months, she had been struggling to put food on her family’s table. To provide something to eat for her children, Stephanie would pick up ketchup packets from fast food restaurants and would water them down to make tomato soup.
Stephanie’s story changed Sasha’s perspective, and she has dedicated her career to Second Harvest ever since. Sasha is now in her eighth year with the organization.
For Kelly, the story is a bit more personal. As a teenager during the recession, her family couldn’t afford food. Kelly got a job at the local mall and picked up shifts when she could so she could help provide financial support for her family.
Because of that experience, Kelly doesn’t want others to struggle like her family did. She wants to make sure that she can help provide resources for families that struggle with food insecurity just like her family did years ago. “For me, it’s not personal gain,” Kelly said, “it’s about how I can help the most amount of people.”
4) Food insecurity leads to hard decisions for families, and they shouldn’t be stigmatized for it.
Kelly told me about a bill that comes up in Congress every five years for review called the Farm Bill. Currently up for review, the Farm Bill doesn’t just give subsidies to farmers, but it’s the largest piece of legislation that actually addresses hunger. Programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Women, Infants, Children assistance (WIC), and the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) receive funding under this important bill.
Under the new administration, the goal is to cut 193 billion dollars from the Farm Bill over 10 years. When you plan out how the cuts would affect Central Florida, about 34 million meals a year would disappear in Central Florida. This would be catastrophic in Central Florida’s food insecure population.
Many of these government cuts are fueled by the stigma that surrounds the poor who need government assistance. However, “hunger knows no sex, age, religion, race. It could really happen to any of us. It takes just a few paychecks away for you to experience what this is all about,” Sasha told me.
Furthermore, there are many food insecure people who are overweight due to food desserts and tough choices about finances. However, they’re overweight because they’re not able to purchase healthy foods like fresh fruits and vegetables because they can’t afford it, they have no access to a grocery store, or both.
People have to make tough choices when money is tight, and sometimes a car repair, so you can get to work, is more important financially than a fresh bell pepper. That is the trade-off many families make every day. While they know the vegetable is healthier, when four boxes of mac and cheese are the same price, the pepper gets left in the store.
5) There are many ways to help support Second Harvest.
Second Harvest Food Bank needs volunteers every day except Sundays. Volunteers can do anything from sorting meat, putting labels on cans, to working in the production kitchen constructing meals. Because they need so many volunteers, it’s the perfect place for large organizations to get all their employees together for a philanthropic effort.
Plus, for the holidays specifically, Second Harvest has to ramp up distribution because their mobile pantries have to support kids who usually take advantage of free and reduced lunch while they’re in school. “Sometimes when you don’t have enough food to eat and you rely on that free breakfast and lunch, winter break can feel very daunting,” Sasha said.
If you can’t volunteer your time, there are other ways to help too. Of course, the most obvious way would be just to donate food to the food bank yourself. However, if you donate money, for every dollar you give, Second Harvest is able to purchase $9 worth of food through their partnerships.
If you want to volunteer with Second Harvest Food Bank, you can check out all their opportunities and sign up for a shift on their volunteer page. You can also donate financial contributions.
About Sasha Hausman
Sasha Hausman is proud to help fight hunger and feed hope in Central Florida. Every day, Sasha’s mission is to inspire and engage our community to end hunger as Director of Philanthropy at Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. Born and raised in South Florida, Sasha always had a passion for helping people and volunteering. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from the University of Central Florida (Go Knights!). She has been working with Second Harvest for 9 years and loving it. Sasha was recently named one of Orlando Business Journal’s Women Who Mean Business in 2016. Sasha enjoys shopping local, cooking, live music and going to the dog park with her two, cute pups.
About Kelly Quintero
Kelly Quintero has spent the last 4 and a half years professionally working in government, campaigns and now the nonprofit sector. She serves as the Director of Advocacy and Government Relations for Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. She has always sought to give back to the community and use her talents to assist the most vulnerable individuals. She is a proud UCF graduate with a degree in Political Science and recently got married in Orlando to her longtime partner-in-crime, Eddie.