Pensacola, Florida
Saturday October 25th 2014

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Feeding A Growing Appetite

By Sarah McCartan

Food is Appetite 4 Life’s game. It’s what they know. It’s what they do. It’s who they are. Appetite 4 Life is a non-profit organization focused on providing meals and nutrition services to a broad range of individuals through multiple operations. Through their home meal delivery program they provide between 3,500 and 4,000 meals monthly to individuals dealing with terminal illnesses, as well as their dependents.

From the start, Appetite 4 Life has been committed to expanding to meet the diverse needs of the community. Feeding a population who not only faces a great risk of food borne illness, but who may not otherwise have readily available meals during the summer months, has been a natural progression for the organization.

Appetite 4 Life has been a sponsor of the Summer Food Service Program since 2009; preparing and delivering free breakfast, lunch and snacks to various community sites throughout the summer, feeding children up to the age of 18.

“We want every kid out there who is hungry to get a meal. No matter where they are or what their situation is. That’s our whole reason for doing this program,” said Operations Director, Marcus Ditty. “A lot of kids are faced with not knowing where they are getting their next meal from.”

The Summer Food Service Program adds an additional 1,000 to 1,200 meals to Appetite 4 Life’s daily output, totaling between 50,000 and 60,000 meals in three months.

Appetite 4 Life’s sponsorship of the Summer Food Service Program goes far beyond preparing the meals and delivering to the sites. They must hire and train a staff, hire and train a site staff, set up a logistics system, create a compliant menu, order food, stock, and get each location ready, each and every summer.

“It’s like running a marathon in a 5K span,” said Ditty. “It has been the most wonderful marathon you could ever imagine.

Appetite 4 Life has welcomed the challenge since day one, and certainly has not backed down. Since their initial year with the program, they have expanded to serve more sites, and feed more children.

Opening More Doors

Sites located within a school zone that encompasses any school that has 50 percent or more students enrolled in free or reduced-price lunch during the school year, qualifies as an open site. Zones that don’t qualify as such require children to present eligibility documents.
Currently only one of the sites operated by Appetite 4 Life is considered a closed, enrolled site.
Most of the sites that are in current operations are doing so at near or full capacity. Meaning now it’s not a matter of getting more children to those sites, but rather looking at expanding to feed new areas. This year Appetite 4 Life has partnered with the Area Housing Commission to identify additional pockets of need.

Still, the biggest challenge Appetite 4 Life faces is access, that is, getting new sites to come on board and work under the purview of this government directed program.

“If we can get sites that want to open up and want to commit volunteers and want to commit the time to run these programs with us and partner with us, we can make it happen. We can get the food to them. It’s what we do,” said Ditty.

Appetite 4 Life welcomes all sites to open their doors to the program, regardless of duration or capacity limitations. Sites already operating their own summer camps or programs, even to a limited number of children, are encouraged to partake.

“If you are opening your door to children in an area that has needs, we want to be able to feed your kids,” said Ditty. “The more kids I can feed, the happier it makes me, my volunteers, my board of directors and it fulfills the mission of what we do. It’s why we’re here. It’s what’s important to us.”

Contacting Appetite 4 Life early allows for time to go through the application, set up and logistics process. Ditty recommends sites interested in participating next summer go ahead and call now.

Catering to the Community

How do they do it? Everything Appetite does is done by a combination of earned income, the support of community and the kindness of hearts.

Appetite 4 Life is not an organization backed by government funding. They support themselves about 60 percent by earned income through their catering services. Every dollar they make at catering is a dollar that goes directly toward feeding those in need.

Catering services range from providing box lunches to small groups, all the way to parties, weddings and large scale events. Visit appetite4life.org/catering to learn more.

Volunteer

Volunteers are the heart of Appetite 4 Life’s operations and are utilized across all of the organization’s efforts. Currently, Appetite is accepting volunteers to help prepare and package meals for the summer program. Volunteer shifts are available Monday-Friday, from 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. Appetite is also in great need of volunteer drivers for their home delivery meal program. To get involved, visit appetite4life.org/get-involved.

Donate

Appetite takes donations of—anything. If they can’t use it, they will find a way to get it to a client or another non-profit that does. If someone is willing to make the call and think of Appetite 4 Life first, they can be assured that it will be put to good use.