Food Brings Hope has partnered with Sodexo Campus Services to help feed families in need.
Thanks to a partnership with Sodexo Campus Services, Food Brings Hope was ready to feed 500 families in need during the COVID-19 pandemic, and both organizations hope to soon increase that number to 2,000 families served each week.
On Thursday, May 7, the nonprofit held its first drive-thru food bag distribution at Mainland High School, located at 1255 W. International Speedway Blvd, with volunteers from ICI Homes helping to load the bags in people's cars. It will be held every Thursday and be available for anyone who needs food, said Forough Hosseini, CEO and founder of Food Brings Hope. She said that FBH is aware that about 40% of Volusia families live paycheck-to-paycheck, and that many have lost their service industry jobs and have been unable to get unemployment assistance.
“We want to make sure that they have at least something to eat," Hosseini said.
But the COVID-19 crisis has increased the difficulty for FBH to get the quantity of food needed to help local families. While the organization still shops for items at Walmart and Save-a-lot, there are purchasing limits for specific items, Hosseini said. FBH buys a lott of their food from Second Harvest Food Bank, but the pandemic has affected their orders there too. That's why partnering with Sodexo is "huge," Hosseini said.
Through Sodexo's vendor network, FBH is able to buy in bulk the food items needed to fill the bags, which contain things like cereals, tuna, peanut butter, rice, beans, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Sodexo orders and stores the food, provides the space for volunteers to fill the food bags and delivers hem for distribution by volunteers, a press release stated.
Artie Echavarria, general manager of Sodexo Dining services at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, said his company believes in supporting the communities they do business with. It comes from the heart, he said, and that Sodexo has the power, team and tools to help.
“We think that it’s never going to happen to us, but I could be next," Echavarria said. "When you see people doing this, they swallow so much pride to come in and ask for these things. It’s so hard, so how can you not?”
About 14 volunteers from ICI Homes helped out with the food bag distribution. When ICI Homes Chief Administrative Officer Charlene Irland arrived at Mainland in the morning, she saw a line of cars waiting on ISB.
“It was very leveling, and a reminder for those of us who are more fortunate of how many out there are not," she said.
ICI has a culture of giving back, said Irland, who is also a Mainland alumna. She said it's gratifying to be able to be part of this initiative.
Hosseini said next week, FBH aims to increase the food bag distribution to 800 bags, and eventually reach a distribution of 2,000. If the drive-thru initiative grows, the organization will look into alternate locations. This food distribution is an addition to the assistance FBH regularly provides. She also encouraged families in need to reach out to their organization.
“Right now, we know for a fact that [families] are suffering," Hosseini said. "We obviously hope that everything opens up and they get their jobs back, but we want people to know that we’re always here to support them.”