On July 11, 2021, the National Association of Counties (NACo) announced its Achievement Award winners. Alachua County’s program, “County Response to Food Disparity and Insecurity” was selected as a winner in the category of Human Services.
This initiative was led by Alachua County Foster Grandparent Program Manager Satori Days. Since the launch of the Alachua County emergency and ongoing Food Assistance Programs, the initiative has bridged the gap to ensure food access for households with food insecurities and those that refrain from seeking services. This program enhances self-sufficiency in the community and opens opportunities for households to connect with social service agencies, reduces the barriers of fear, and increases inclusionary opportunities for individuals who are homebound, have disabilities, limited transportation, limited income, and lack support.
The pandemic brought to light the “hidden hungry” in the County whose needs have not previously been identified or addressed. The large-scale food distributions continued for six months from the height of the pandemic to businesses opening and transportation becoming more available. The needs of the “hidden hungry” however continued. That led staff to identify ongoing resources to receive requests for assistance and respond accordingly.
The County now has a pantry in the Department of Community Support Services that is able to respond to immediate food needs while connecting with other forms of assistance. It took a pandemic to identify the “hidden hungry” in the County; the Department now strives to locate and serve those households and ensure the insecurities and disparities are addressed to the extent possible. Started in 1970, NACo’s annual Achievement Awards program is designed to recognize county government innovations.