The Junior League of Orlando works with the Junior Leagues of Florida State Public Affairs Community in educating legislators about the need for retailers who sell healthy food in food-insecure neighborhoods.
Despite Florida’s status as a major agricultural state, food insecurity is a widespread problem. In the Junior League of Greater Orlando’s core community, Orlando and surrounding Orange County, nearly 44,000 people live in food-insecure homes, with more than a quarter of them children. In Florida as a whole, 17.5 percent of all children live in food-insecure homes and more than 27.5 percent of all Floridians are food insecure. As a result, JLGO members have gone to Tallahassee to push state legislators to support the Healthy Food Retail Act.
This initiative was started by JLGO after learning of the food insecurities that children in its HIP Kids program faced on a daily basis. JLGO championed the cause at the Junior Leagues of Florida State Public Affairs Committee, or FLSPAC, conference and persuaded FLSPAC to present this issue as a legislative priority. In a two-pronged approach, JLGO members and their networks relentlessly worked to educate their legislators while other JLGO members led the FLSPAC task force to work for the passage of the legislation and engaged other Florida Leagues to educate their legislators. The initiative was advanced through grassroots efforts and coalition-building (Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, the Florida Association of Food Banks, the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association, the American Heart Association, and the Florida Catholic Conference) as well as attending legislative hearings.
- State legislators, including Senators Gary Siplin and Ronda Storms
- Community partners including Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, the Florida Association of Food Banks, the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association, the American Heart Association, and the Florida Catholic Conference
How it works
JLGO worked with Senator Gary Siplin, who introduced Senate Bill 852 in the Florida Senate, as well as Senator Ronda Storms. The bill would provide critical one-time grant and loan financing aid to help fresh food retailers overcome the higher initial barriers of entering underserved, low-income communities. The bill also supports the renovation and expansion of existing stores so they can provide the healthy foods that communities want and need. The initiative reflects a larger national movement to eliminate “food deserts” in low-income areas. Food deserts are typically defined as low-income communities whose closest grocery store or market is at least 1-5 miles from that community, resulting in little or no access to fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods in those communities.
What’s the impact?
Because the legislation is pending, it is still too early to tell. However, JLGO’s healthy food retailing initiative demonstrates what a single League can do when it embraces a problem that transcends its community and builds support for solutions that address it. This initiative is an important part of JLGO’s new core cause: Childhood Health, Hunger and Poverty.