Underserved communities banking on businesses to help wipe out hunger

Tammy Matthew — Market Executive, Bank of America Treasure Coast

Tammy Matthew has worked in the financial services industry for more than 25 years. In her role as the market executive for Bank of America, she leads the market’s business, civic and philanthropic activities and oversees the bank’s business engagement and growth on the Treasure Coast.

More than 12% of Florida residents are facing food insecurity, according to Feeding America. This means the chances are high that you know someone suffering from food scarcity, even if you don’t realize it. More than 2.5 million Floridians live in households without consistent access to food and more than 700,000 are children.

Taking a closer look at the Treasure Coast, Indian River and St. Lucie counties share even higher rates of insecurity than the state average and the prevalence among children is significantly greater at more than 22%.

Hunger is complex and exacerbates other issues faced by underserved communities. Estimates show that hunger results in more than $4 billion of additional annual healthcare costs for Florida, and more than $126 million on the Treasure Coast, through increased illness and decreased academic achievement.

Food insecurity is a compounding issue, creating ripple effects that weaken the labor force and limit the academic potential of children. Yet, as the pandemic continues, hunger relief organizations in the Treasure Coast and across the country are facing ongoing challenges that have made it increasingly difficult to address this issue, such as increased demand for their services and rising food prices.

As members of the Treasure Coast community, it’s important that local business leaders are aware of vital organizations like the Treasure Coast Food Bank, that are lifelines to residents who may not know where their next meal is coming from.

Solutions exist to bridge the hunger gap, including community cohorts, school programs, and awareness campaigns to connect those in need to available resources, but programs like these need financial support — estimates indicate more than $1.4 billion more per year is needed to adequately meet food needs in Florida.

While the magnitude of need and funding requirements may seem daunting, they are surmountable when people work together. Supporting health and wellness has always been part of Bank of America’s commitment to the communities it serves. Bank officials are happy to share that the Treasure Coast Food Bank has received $25,000 in honor of their employees who shared that they have received a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot. Nationally, the bank has committed $10.6 million in donations to local food banks.

The impact of the donations is sizable, meaning that its booster donations will provide thousands of meals to Treasure Coast residents across the three counties Bank of America serves. The bank has been a longtime partner of the Treasure Coast Food Bank, donating more than $265,000 to the organization and participating in volunteer efforts, including warehouse sorting and packing as well as Better Money Habits presentations.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Bank of America has also provided support across the region to the hunger relief efforts of House of Hope, Sarah’s Kitchen of the Treasure Coast, and the Council on Aging of Martin County.

Furthermore, the bank donated 398,000 masks, 1,122 hand sanitizers, 202,000 pairs of gloves and other PPE equipment to help local nonprofits address critical issues affecting the community beyond food insecurity.

Today the financial institution applauds its employees who participated in its shared commitment to protect and serve their communities. It also encourages the Treasure Coast’s business community to find ways to support both employee and community wellness. We all win when we work together to create a better tomorrow for Florida today.

See the original article in the print publication

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