OKEECHOBEE — The Okeechobee Healthy Start Coalition was made aware of a grant to create a supplemental feeding program in Okeechobee that targets pregnant women, new mothers and children under the age of five. As Okeechobee’s Maternal and Child Health Advocate, the main goal of Healthy Start is to lower risk factors associated with preterm birth, low birth weight, infant mortality, and poor developmental outcomes. Healthy Start wants to utilize this grant to promote health and economic equity by ensuring nutritionally vulnerable, underserved populations have access to evidence-based nutrition interventions.
Healthy Start chose to collaborate with another local non-profit organization, Our Village Okeechobee, to bring a supplemental feeding program to the community. Our Village Okeechobee has already been making huge strides in the fight to close the food gap that many of our local families experience by hosting their biweekly food trucks that take place every other Monday. Our Village Okeechobee is dedicated to identifying needs of individuals, families, and the larger community by working to meet those needs by providing a hand up, not a hand out.
This supplemental feeding program was designed to help bridge the food insecurity gap experienced by children and expecting mothers in our community. This program plans to assist the family and connect them to other local providers and programs that will help supplement the family’s food needs until they are able to supplement their own food supply or provide for themselves.
Once a client is connected to Our Village Okeechobee, a trained assessment coordinator will be able to assist the families by understanding their own unique needs. The assessment coordinator will be looking to identify the root cause of the family’s hunger and work to refer and educate clients to improve health and economic outcomes. The assessment coordinator will help get the family through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) application, if they are not already receiving SNAP benefits. This application period, when expedited, typically has a five day case disposition and it takes a few more days before the family receives their SNAP benefit card. It can be a total of eight days before the family receives any benefits.
The assessment coordinator will give the family an emergency bag of food, connect the family to a local food bank, provide nutrition and health education and will inform them of the biweekly food truck that takes place every other Monday. By connecting families and providing education and a warm hand-off to local resources and collaborating with local food producers, we will be able to help the families bridge their 8-day food insecurity gap and become self-sufficient.
If your family has a pregnant woman, new mother or child under the age of five and is experiencing a food insecurity or needs help with getting connected to local resources, please reach out to Our Village Okeechobee at 863-697-8718. They are centrally located in walking distance of several community resources at 205 N.E. Second St., Okeechobee.