2018 marks quite the year for BEAM’s food assistance programs. Last year, we celebrated the 5th “birthday” of Grace Garden, our 7,200 square foot urban garden, which provides supplemental produce for our two client-choice food pantries. We harvested more than 6,500 pounds of produce from sixty-one 4’ x 12’ garden boxes and seven aeroponic towers.
In addition, the Beaches Community Food Bank, housed behind the 7north marquee thrift store in North Jax Beach continues to distribute a record number of rescued food from grocery retailers and donations from community food drives. This steady increase year over year has allowed BEAM to increase the number of Feeding Northeast Florida agency partners that receive food on a regular basis. Last year alone, the BEAM Food Bank distributed more than 789,000 pounds of food, equaling 657,590 meals to our hungry beaches neighbors (5% increase over last year). Of those, 369,4515 meals were distributed through our mobile food pantry partners including Pablo Hamlet, Pablo Towers and Mayport Elementary School and the other 288,174 meals were taken home by the clients of our two brick and mortar food pantries last year.
As you may know, the Mayport area is a USDA designated food desert, meaning that it has significant number of residents that are more than one mile (urban) or 10 miles (rural) from the nearest supermarket. It is also an area designated as “low vehicle access”, meaning that more than 100 households have no access to a vehicle and are more than 0.5 miles from the nearest supermarket. This is why we are relentless in our expansion efforts in this area of the community.
Last year we were proud to add the Jacksonville USO off Mayport Rd as a partner, which has allowed us to regularly provide food for the active and retired military families they serve. In recent times, this partnership has become even more critical as we work to provide meals to families on furlough impacted by the government shutdown.