From teaching people to grow microgreens in their homes to empowering residents at a homeless shelter to grow their own healthy produce to creating a virtual food drive, three organizations' innovative ideas aimed at fighting hunger in West Florida were recognized as regional finalists in GuideWell's Block by Block Florida Food Insecurity Challenge.
On Sept. 11, 15 regional finalists from across Tampa Bay pitched their innovative ideas to fight hunger in their respective communities. The Homeless Empowerment Program, The Well and Feeding Tampa Bay were selected as the thee regional finalists to receive $2,000 in funding. In addition, they will advance to GuideWell’s Block by Block Food Insecurity Challenge finals where they’ll have the opportunity to compete for a $20,000 state grand prize. Funds will be used to reduce or eliminate food insecurity in their local communities.
The three innovative ideas from Tampa Bay organizations advancing to the finals include:
• Homeless Empowerment Program (Pinellas County) – The expansion of the HEP Urban Empowerment Garden on its eight-acre residential campus will allow HEP to further empower individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness in the North Greenwood Neighborhood.
• The Well (Hillsborough County) – The launch of a proposed Microgreens project, as an extension of their successful community garden program, will provide materials, training and distribution infrastructure to people in Tampa food deserts to grow Microgreens in their homes for themselves, their community and, if they wish, to sell in the local Tampa economy.
• Feeding Tampa Bay (Hillsborough County) – To better leverage the giving spirit of the Tampa Bay community, a proposed virtual food drive app and/or portal would allow community organizations to more effectively conduct food drives by allowing donors to buy fresh produce and other foods healthier than traditional can foods through the app while leveraging Feeding Tampa Bay’s buying power to allow donors’ dollars to stretch farther and purchase more food.
More than 2.8 million people in Florida, including 800,000 children and 500,000 seniors, are food insecure—meaning they are unable to access sufficient and nutritious food for an active life.
This Summer, GuideWell issued the statewide challenge to all entrepreneurs, nonprofits, innovators and organizations to accelerate innovative thinking and make Florida communities more food secure. Aside from the regional pitch event in Tampa Bay, three other regional pitch events took place throughout the state. The three finalists from each of the four regions (Central Florida, North Florida, West Florida and South Florida) will present their approaches and compete for the grand prize of $20,000 at the Food Insecurity Challenge statewide showcase on Wednesday, Oct. 16 at the GuideWell Innovation Center in Lake Nona. All 12 statewide finalists will also receive a unique opportunity to attend the GuideWell Block by Block Food Insecurity Forum on Thursday, Oct. 17, an invitation-only, collaborative event bringing together experts and stakeholders from across the state and nation to focus on building food-secure communities in Florida.