EWE Spirit Grant Recipient Story:
One of the wonderful nonprofit organizations the EWE Spirit Foundation awarded grants to this March is the Star of the Sea Foundation.
Food insecurity and malnutrition are urgent and far-too common problems in the United States. But past “solutions” haven’t always produced the best results for our communities or our environment. Today, the Star of the Sea Foundation (SOS) is tackling these problems in culturally aware, sustainable ways that are both lifting people up and helping to protect the earth.
SOS operates in Monroe County, Florida, one of the most rural counties in the United States. More commonly known as the Florida Keys, the county consists of a strand of islands connected by a single two-lane highway, which makes securing and transporting food both time-consuming and expensive. A staggering 42% of Monroe County residents struggle financially to live in this “island paradise.” Only 37% live within a half-mile of a healthy food source.
In response to these realities, SOS’s food pantries distribute 2 million pounds of food each year to more than 10,000 children, veterans, seniors, and homeless people. They also provide house supplies, pet food, school supplies and clothes. The foundation’s community kitchen serves healthy lunches and after-school snacks to children, as well as freshly prepared meals for low-income senior citizens. SOS also offers a wide range of nutritional educational opportunities, from a county-wide program in the local public schools to cooking demonstrations for adults focused on healthy, budget-friendly menus specifically crafted with SOS’s pantry ingredients in mind.
More than 50 percent of the food SOS distributes is fresh produce. The rest includes meats, dairy products, breads and canned goods. The foundation’s “client-choice” food pantries offer a variety of items that are culturally relevant to diverse populations and sensitive to different dietary restrictions. This enables clients to select foods that they will actually use, thus significantly reducing food waste. (Did you know that a third of food in the U.S. never reaches our dinner tables? Instead, it ends up decomposing in our landfills, taking up more space there than any other trash items. Our airline industry’s carbon footprint is smaller than that of our wasted food!)
Another way that SOS tackles waste is by collecting unsold food from local farmers, businesses and groceries. Any food that can’t be recovered for human consumption is composted for the garden at the foundation’s community kitchen or donated to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Animal Farm to be used for animal feed.
The EWE Spirit Foundation is proud to be supporting an organization so committed not only to helping those in need, but also to doing it in a respectful, sustainable way.