Strategic InitiativesIn 2005 and 2010, the Trustees of the Naples Children & Education Foundation commissioned an assessment of the needs of children in Collier County. The study, done by the Lastinger Center for Learning at the University of Florida proved to be a comprehensive overview of the status of child well being in our community and an invaluable tool to help elevate the Foundation to a first class grant maker. The study indentified several significant gaps in basic services of Collier’s children in response to these findings the trustees of NCEF elected to look beyond their annual grants program and proactively engage in strategic partnerships with local non-profits, local colleges, universities and other foundations with the goal of creating long term solutions to fill the gaps.
To date NCEF has committed $24 million to these “Strategic Initiatives."
These studies have lead to the following NCEF Strategic Initiatives:
- Oral Health Initiative
- Early Childhood Learning
- Out of School
- Mental Health
- Childhood Hunger
Children's Oral Health
The Current Issue:While not often thought of as a health crisis, severe medical complications resulting from minimal oral care and treatment can be extremely dangerous, or even fatal. Tooth decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease, outranking even asthma and hay fever. Even the United States Surgeon General has recognized six out of every ten children will suffer from tooth decay by age five, and poor children are twice as likely to suffer from untreated decay. Painful, untreated tooth decay leads to 51 million lost school hours. Poor children suffer almost 12 times more restricted-activity days than those coming from families with higher incomes. Pain and distress caused by untreated dental disease can also lead to problems in eating and speaking.
These statistics hold true, even here in beautiful Collier County. In fact, the Study of Child Well Being in 2005 reported that nearly 1/3, or about 17,000, of Collier County children do not have access to even basic dental care. The report also found that nearly 70 percent of children from one Collier County elementary school, with a large population of students from low-income families, were found to have untreated dental decay and periodontal disease. Of the total school population, 18 percent of the children suffered from acute dental disease that required immediate emergency care. A 2010 update of the data supported the continued need for dental care for Collier County’s children. This item remains a high priority target for community leaders including NCEF trustees. According to, Child Well-Being in Collier County: A 2010 Update, the Department of Health reported 212 active dentists in Collier county but only nine percent accepted Medicaid patients, thus limiting access to quality care for impoverished children.
NCEF’s Contribution to the Solution:Phase I - 2008 - NCEF Pediatric Dental Center
Oral Health is the first Strategic Initiative, and its success set the stage for subsequent major collaborations impacting children’s services for decades to come. To address the serious gap in service, NCEF spearheaded a unique public private partnership to build and maintain the NCEF Pediatric Dental Center at Edison State College in East Naples, which opened in December 2008. The 28,000 square foot , state-of-the-art facility was the first LEED certified building constructed in Collier County. The nationally accredited and award-winning Center handles up to 15,000 patient visits each year and hosts the University of Florida (UF) College of Dentistry’s pediatric dental residency program - one of the most advanced programs of its kind in the country.
To date, the Clinic has seen over 50,000 patients. The University of Florida clinicians, faculty, residents and volunteers at the NCEF Pediatric Dental Center all agree, the severity of the dental disease observed at the clinic is like none they have ever seen, particularly the rampant disease in children under the age of five. It is not uncommon for toddlers to require either Intravenous sedation or general anesthesia in order to receive the scope of care necessary to improve their oral health. Particularly unsettling is the presence of heightened levels of early childhood caries. A recent article articulates the possible effects of lack of treatment for these children.
“Tooth decay is something one normally associates with adults, but it's happening more and more in young children and toddlers. Dental caries is the most common chronic childhood disease, five times more common than asthma in children, and significantly more prevalent than chronic bronchitis.
Untreated caries in children may affect the growth of adult teeth, with poor dental health and disease persisting into adulthood. Caries can lead to infection, pain, abscesses, chewing problems, malnutrition and gastrointestinal disorders. It can affect speech and articulation, and like many chronic diseases, the risk factors of early childhood caries also contribute to childhood obesity and malnutrition.
Children with poor dental health may also experience associated symptoms, including inadequate nutrition, poor self-esteem and problems with speech development.
Parents have the tendency to believe that baby teeth are not important because they fall out. On contrary, baby teeth play an important role as place holders for permanent teeth. If a baby tooth is lost too early, the teeth beside it may drift into the empty space. When it is time for the adult teeth to come in, there may not be enough room. This can make the teeth crooked or crowded which can require braces.”
The Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida, a private, non-profit health care provider that chiefly serves clients at or below poverty level, and its Ronald McDonald Caremobile, which provides medical and dental screening and health education to underprivileged children, refer patients to the clinic. The Healthcare Network also operates the clinic’s billing and collection activities, payroll, and supply procurement.
With a strategy of community partnerships focused on vulnerable, indigent and special needs populations, the UF College of Dentistry’s Statewide Network for Community Oral Health has become one of the largest providers of low-cost dental care in Florida. It operates 18 other clinics throughout the state and provides nearly all care to Florida’s indigent residents through its network.
Phase II- June 2013, Working Toward a Change
Based upon data from the NCEF’s Oral Health Project, a new and innovative five-year program has been established. It includes the development of Collier County’sfirst oral health surveillance system, an essential element for public health program planning, evaluation, and advocacy. Phase II of NCEF's Children’s Oral Health Initiative will increase the availability of evidence-based preventive services in the area, including an expanded school-based dental sealant program for all second grade children in low socio-economic schools. Working with the Collier County Health Department and local Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) centers, the project will provide oral health education for pregnant women and new moms, as well as screening, fluoride varnish application, and referral for at-risk children. To increase the oral health literacy of the families it serves, the Pediatric Dental Center will employ promotores de salud - - health educators who come from the communities served - - delivering culturally appropriate oral health counseling and guidance. These initiatives build on and complement NCEF's successful investment in Phase I. The ultimate goal of the NCEF Children’s Oral Health Project is to decrease the number of children in our community who suffer from dental disease and improve their oral health-related quality of life.
Children's Early Learning Initiative
The Current Issue:Early childhood education refers to the learning experiences, structured and otherwise, a child receives from birth through age five. Cognitive development, which includes obtaining pre-reading, language, vocabulary and number skills, begins at birth. It has been found that there is an extremely powerful connection between the development a child experiences in his first five years and the success that he or she will experience later in life. More specifically, the United States government has discovered that a child’s knowledge of the alphabet in kindergarten is one of the most significant predictors of what that child’s tenth grade reading ability will be.
When young children are provided an environment full of language and literary interactions, they begin to acquire the essential building blocks for learning how to read. A child who enters school without these skills is at significant risk of falling behind his peers and staying there throughout his school career. According to the 2005 Study of Child Well-Being, 44 percent of Collier County children screened entering kindergarten were rated at risk of early school failure. Many child care providers argued that more emphasis should be placed on social and emotional development and holistic literacy rather than isolated phonetic reading and have developed strategies to improve literacy skills.. In 2010, 58 percent of Collier children were considered kindergarten ready according to the Florida Assessment for Instruction in Reading (FAIR) compared to 44 percent in 2005. Much of this growth can be anecdotally correlated to NCEF’s deliberate investment strategy around early childhood education.
NCEF Contribution to the Solution:East Naples
This multi-faceted Strategic Initiative for children from birth to 5 years old enhances teacher quality, access and affordability of education-focused care components that research deemed deficient in Collier County. The NCEF Early Childhood Center in East Naples was built in 2008 and is LEED certified. The Center is a bricks-and-mortar example of how NCEF is tackling early learning for the most vulnerable in East Naples.
The NCEF Early Childhood Development Center is the sister facility to the NCEF Pediatric Dental Center and lies adjacent to the clinic on the Edison State College Campus in East Naples. The facility currently hosts 108 children from birth through five years old. The Child Care Center is managed by the Collier County Child Care Resources, a non-profit child care training and provider agency that has been serving families in the Collier area for forty-one years. Its staff is charged with providing early learning care for the children, establishing a teachers resource center, and providing continuing education classes for local daycare providers.
NCEF, architects, and child care professionals designed this facility to serve children from lower income homes while also providing a classroom setting for future educators and a demonstration site where existing and potential providers of early child care and education can experience a Reggio Emilia-inspired program. Reggio Emilia is recognized worldwide for its innovative approach to education. The Reggio Emilia philosophy is based upon the following set of principles:
- Children must have some control over the direction of their learning;
- Children must be able to learn through experiences of touching, moving, listening, seeing, and hearing;
- Children have a relationship with other children and with material items in the world that children must be allowed to explore; and
- Children must have endless ways and opportunities to express themselves.
The Reggio Emilia approach to teaching young children puts the natural development of children as well as the close relationships that they share with their environment at the center of its philosophy. The NCEF Early Childhood Development Center acts as a resource hub for parents and provides space for community meetings and classes. Other community partners contributing to the program include RCMA, The Early Learning Coalition of Southwest Florida and Collier County Public Schools.
Immokalee has one of the highest concentrations of child poverty in Collier County. Approximately 9,000 children reside in Immokalee. Three thousand of them are under five years old. NCEF’s response to the early childhood concerns in Immokalee is a multi-faceted initiative aimed at enhancing teacher quality, increasing capacity, affordability, access, and quality of early childhood educational care. The Naples Children & Education Foundation and its partners have been working in earnest to address specific gaps in services.
Family Child Care HomesBased upon evidence presented in the Study of Child Well Being in 2005, the NCEF trustees engaged in an ambitious goal in establishing a network of family child care homes to care for children in Immokalee, ranging in age from birth to 3 years old. The design included subsidies for children in need of scholarship so they may enroll in child care. To date, 36 Family Child Care Homes have been licensed. The design of the Family Child Care Homes is to act as feeder homes to the four major child care centers in Immokalee.
Before these children could be placed in the family child care network, teachers and supervisors had to be identified and trained, and their homes made ready to accept the children. To accomplish this, the professional development component of the Immokalee Early Learning Initiative includes:
- Incentives for teachers to become certified, accredited, and licensed.
- Scholarship opportunities for teachers so that they may attend continuing education classes at the local universities and colleges, which are often cost prohibitive for these service providers.
Childcare Training & Resource Center
Collier Child Care Resources and the Naples Children & Education Foundation are working strategically and proactively in collaboration with the early learning providers and support agencies, specifically Redlands Christian Migrant Association (RCMA), Guadalupe Center, Immokalee Child Care Center, Immokalee Housing & Family Services (IHFS), Collier County Public School System’s and Early Learning Literacy Model ( ELLM) to elevate the quality of our early childhood instructors in Immokalee.
The Immokalee early learning programs expressed the need for support with employee recruitment and retention, career advancement, local education and training, financial supports and a centralized professional development agency to administer such supports. With the help of NCEF and the Immokalee Community, Collier Child Care Resources, Inc. opened the Collier Childcare Training & Resource Center on April 1, 2008 and has had many successes thus far in providing the support that will help lead to positive outcomes for Immokalee’s children. Under this initiative, CCCR is addressing the early learning professional's "career ladder" by coaching and mentoring them to seek state-mandated and non-mandated trainings, their Staff Credential/CDA and then ultimately higher-education courses; working towards a two-year degree in Early Childhood Education.
Supporting the Professional Development needs and coordinating and/or providing quality education and training will lead to positive outcomes and ultimately increase the quality of care given to Immokalee's children, often at-risk of school failure.
The Child Care Executive Partnership: A Leveraging OpportunityOne of the exciting leveraging aspects of the Immokalee Early Learning Initiative is NCEF’s participation in the Child Care Executive Partnership (CCEP) which doubles NCEF’s investment in child care scholarships.
The CCEP is an innovative, public/private partnership program that was created by the Florida Legislature in 1996 to help communities meet the needs of a growing segment of their workforce-working parents. This exciting program leverages public-private partnerships and celebrates entrepreneurial philanthropy. As NCEF enters year four of the Immokalee Early Learning Initiative, NCEF’s investment of $675,000 in scholarships for eligible children has been matched dollar for dollar from CCEP totaling $1,350,000 in new subsidies for the communities’ most vulnerable population.
Children's Healthcare Initiative
The Current Issue:Without quality prenatal care, a pregnant woman is 10.9 times more likely to have a baby die and 5.6 times more likely to have a baby born with low birth weight. Research has shown that $1.00 of preventative care can save $6.00 of additional costs over the lifetime of a premature baby. Low birth weight breeds other significant problems including organs that are not fully developed, which can lead to lung problems and vision loss. These babies are 20 times more likely to die in their first year of life according to March of Dimes.
According to the Child Well-Being in Collier County: A 2010 Update, 38 percent of Collier County resident births were with less than adequate prenatal care, down four percentage points from 2006. Low-income women are among those most at risk for delivering low birth weight babies. They tend to use prenatal care less, perceive more barriers to care, have less positive reinforcement for receiving care, have less access to care, have lower education levels, maintain less healthy lifestyles, and have lower compliance with medical recommendations.
NCEF's Contribution to the Solution:
Through strategic brokering and partnerships and a $2,000,000 investment matched dollar for dollar by Florida State, NCEF has successfully introduced a fully renovated Primary Care clinic at the Isabel Collier Read Building in Immokalee, Florida. NCEF’s investment helped to finance renovations to the 29,000-square-foot medical clinic that had been donated to FSU by Naples Community Hospital Healthcare System in 2007. The building had originally been donated to NCH Healthcare by Isabel Collier Read in an effort to ensure that the medical needs of the community’s farm workers and other underserved residents would be met. After the deed on the property was transferred to FSU, Read endowed the medical school’s educational program in Immokalee with an additional gift. The gifts from Read and NCEF were eligible for state matching funds, which pushed the combined value of all three gifts to more than $13 million.
The Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida and Florida State University (FSU) College of Medicine Primary Care Clinic is one of Florida State University College of Medicine’s regional campuses. FSU students throughout the state have the opportunity to fulfill third-year required and fourth-year elective rotations in Immokalee. FSU medical students who spend part of their third and fourth years of study in Immokalee gain a more complete understanding of rural medicine while also contributing to the health of the community. Medical school faculty and students provide pediatric and maternal/infant care side by side with Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida providers and staff, almost doubling of the existing capacity for pediatric and pre-natal services in Immokalee.
The FSU Women’s Health Department moved in to the Isabel Collier Read building in March 2010. The department has one OB/GYN and one midwife on staff. There are also 3rd and 4th year medical students from FSU’s College of Medicine completing rotations through the department. There are ten exam rooms, one ultrasound room, and one treatment room. The department offers prenatal and postnatal care, as well as standard gynecological care. An estimated 500-600 of FSU/Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida patients deliver at Naples Community Hospital, less than 25 deliveries at Gulf Coast Hospital and another 150 will deliver in other locations as migrant populations move following the crop.
Children's Out of School Initiative
The Current Issue:Two needs assessments of child well-being in Collier County commissioned by NCEF in 2005 and 2010, found a significant gap in out-of-school time program services particularly for students in Immokalee. Out-of-school time programming (OSTP) has a very literal definition. If one thinks of the formal school day as seven hours delivered somewhere between 8 AM and 3 PM, OST encompasses all programming that takes place outside those boundaries and is not part of the school system’s supported extra-curricular offerings.
The need is even greater in Immokalee where out-of-school programs are only reaching a fraction of the children most in need.
Child Trends reports that school engagement is on the decline. Researchers define school engagement in three domains: behavioral, emotional, and cognitive. Through survey data, parents suggest that only 39% of girls and 20% of boys are engaged in school. OST programs are actively identifying disengaged youth and developing specific programs and services to reconnect them to school and community. Programs that offer, sequenced, active, focused and explicit (SAFE) programming (Durlak & Weissberg, 2007) have been known to have significant effects on student engagement and other positive developments (Lippman & Rivers, 2008).
The Immokalee student demographic profile shows over 95% to be economically disadvantaged, 75% living in non-English speaking homes, 27% limited English proficiency, and 35% from migrant families. Immokalee families have a history of little academic or career success. Among adults 25 years old or older, 56% have less than a ninth grade education and only 16% have earned a high school diploma. Consequently, lacking a success vision and family support, the current school population struggles to meet Florida’s academic standards and fails to see the education-career connection. Low performance levels discourage students, making them less likely to attempt challenging classes, and making graduation and matriculation into college or post-secondary training programs an almost insurmountable challenge.
Additionally, anecdotal evidence suggests that there is a much higher number of “latchkey kids” in Immokalee compared to the national average of 25%. Young people are open to experimentation and after-school hours and unoccupied weekends are times of risky and dangerous behavior. However, for Immokalee children, the OST need reaches far beyond providing a safe environment. Without the additional time and resources for academic support (including summer when learning loss of children from poverty far exceeds that of their peers), their opportunity for success is greatly diminished. All students can learn; time is the variable.
NCEF's Contribution to the Solution:This Strategic Initiative was developed to provide innovative, world-class programs to close gaps in education during after-school, holiday and summertime hours. These programs provide safe, nurturing environments for children to thrive, enabling them to keep up with homework, address issues, and not lose ground during summer months. Organizations that provide out-of-school programs are required to deliver high-level academic instruction with a blended culturally sensitive enrichment component. Motivated by overwhelming need, shared commitment to support healthy child development, and strong belief in the talents and resilience of Immokalee youth, NCEF identified a group of education leaders to develop responsive strategies. The group developed a consortium called Guided Programs for Success or “GPS.”
Today, the vision and expertise of the GPS Leadership Team, the active participation of the Collier County Public Schools and the NCEF commitment to develop a prototype for transformational OST programs in Immokalee forms the triad for success.
To make high-quality, purposeful programs available to Immokalee at-risk students, GPS built a foundation of expansion and enhancement during the first quarter of its inaugural year. The GPS delivery system includes the following key components:
- A collective understanding of OST and its impact on child well-being;
- Coordination, collaboration and resource leveraging among current program providers and existing community resources;
- Strategic partnerships with philanthropic, academic, and government entities;
- Leadership development for leaders, staff and participating students supported by GPS Professional Learning Communities (PLC);
- A business model that ensures quality control, accountability through a data-driven continuous improvement cycle process, and sustainability through multiple funding streams;
- Establishment of programs focused on the engagement and the relationship building necessary to create effective learning environments.
A review of research suggests that a high-quality out-of-school program or system does not operate in isolation (Vandell, Reisner, & Peirce, 2007). Using focused and intentional programming, engaging activities, and supportive staff , GPS is building the relationships that are necessary, for an effective program . To this end several partner organizations work together to deliver services in a comprehensive manner: The Holocaust Museum, The United Arts Council, Boys and Girls Club of Collier County, Collier County Parks and Recreation, RCMA, Guadalupe Center, Immokalee Housing and Family Services and The Immokalee Foundation.
GPS gives students who may need extra learning time opportunities to learn complex academic content, particularly in mathematics and science, by participating in real world examples, applications and experiences. Many of those experiences are holistic and interconnected, giving participating students a chance to see how things work and fit in the world.
Children's Mental Health Initiative
The Current Issue:As Florida’s second-largest geographic county and one the state’s most culturally and economically diverse county, Collier encompasses communities with several high-risk factors for development of physical and mental health problems. Following inconclusive data regarding the incidence of mental heath diagnoses among children from the Study of Child Well-Being in 2005, NCEF engaged researchers at the University of South Florida Louis de la Parte Mental Health Institute to conduct a needs assessment for pediatric mental health in Collier County. Although the researchers concluded that there were no accurate estimates available for the number of children who were living with mental health diagnoses in Collier County, the application of the accepted national statistic of 20 percent to Collier children (80,000 x 20%=16,000) would suggest that as many as 16,000 children are living with a mental health diagnosis.
NCEF's Contribution to the Solution:In the spirit of good faith and collaboration, preliminary discussions among stakeholders began in 2007 in response to the concerning data regarding the number of children in Collier with untreated behavioral health issues. Professionals from David Lawrence Center, the Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida, Youth Haven, National Alliance for Mentally Ill, NCEF, and others established the first phase in bridging the gaps in services for children living with a mental health problem.
Developed over two years of discussion and implemented in 2010, the Health Under Guided Systems (H.U.G.S.) program’s primary purpose is to collaboratively develop and provide a responsive and comprehensive system of care for children and youth with behavioral health needs. HUGS facilitates collaboration across agencies, families, and youth for the purpose of improving access and expanding the array of coordinated, community-based, culturally and linguistically competent services and supports for children with behavioral health challenges and their families. The project provides coordinated, universal behavioral health screening and referrals to facilitate early identification and access to care in order to mitigate the effects of untreated problems later on.
Over the past year, the agencies have worked together on cross-systems coordination in order to reduce fragmentation, reduce or eliminate duplication of services, maximize resources, and increase the availability of high quality, best practice approaches.
Noteworthy partner accomplishments between June 1, 2010 and May 31, 2011 include:
- The HUGS Mobile was put into service to provide assertive outreach for screening and education. Insert photo of mobile here
- Hundreds of “Breaking the Silence” classes were provided in various community settings to address the stigma and discrimination often associated with mental illness.
- Using standardized/validated instruments, screenings were completed for over 1500 children.
- Linkage to hundreds of children for follow up assessments or clinical interventions was facilitated.
- Ninety children are enrolled with System Navigators for ongoing coordination of care.
- Psychiatric services were provided to over 534 new, unduplicated children.
This Strategic Initiative is now expanding to include a full-time, board certified, bilingual child psychiatrist, two child psychologists,three post-doctoral fellows and a host of licensed clinical mental health specialists. These specially trained clinicians will ensure timely access to high-quality care without the stigma often associated with mental health disorders.
Through a groundbreaking holistic approach to integrating primary and mental healthcare, children will receive mental health services at David Lawrence Center and at pediatricians’ offices through a partnership with FSU College of Medicine, or may see psychologists and psychiatrists at various Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida clinics throughout Collier County.
Children's Vision Initiative
The Current Issue:“If you can’t see, you can’t learn.” With that in mind, the Naples Children & Education Foundation (NCEF) has added an additional clinical layer to its healthcare safety net by addressing pediatric vision challenges among at-risk youth in Collier County.
Research indicates that significant vision problems are prevalent in 25% of all school aged children in the United States and one of the most prevalent handicapping conditions in childhood (Farebee 2004, Zaba 2008). Low-income and minority children are at a greater risk of under-diagnosis and under-treatment of vision problems as well as an unmet need for vision care services (Ganz et al 2006, 2007, Basch 2010). Among Title I students and academically and behaviorally at-risk children, research indicates that up to 85% have vision problems that are either undetected or untreated (Johnson et al 2000, Zaba 2008).
Research indicates that the earlier students are identified and treated for vision problems, the better the academic outcomes (Glewwe, 2009). The failure to treat vision disorders in children affect such issues as childhood development, learning performance, self-esteem, social-emotional behavior, academic achievement, high school drop-out rates, and juvenile delinquency.
Experts estimate that 80% of what we learn comes through the visual processing of information, yet two out of three children in the United States do not receive any preventative vision care before entering elementary school (Farebee 2004, Zaba 2008). Screening with the traditional Snellen Chart may miss up to 60% of significant refractive error (Indian River Study, 2009).
These startling statistics are evidenced in Florida and in Collier County, where the need is far greater than services currently provided. Currently, students in Collier County are only screened for vision issues in grades Kindergarten, first, third and sixth grade. By any measure, the level of inadequate vision care for children is significant, and the need in Collier County far exceeds the current services provided.
NCEF's Contribution to a Solution:
NCEF conducted a follow up study on child well-being in 2010 which addressed the overlapping medical needs for children in Collier County, vision examinations and eyeglasses being a significant gap in services. Vision Quest and its partners have established a well defined baseline of need, and a multiple modality structure to treat the children with the most acute eye care challenges.
Coined “Now You See It,” this Strategic Initiative ensures children in Collier County’s Title I schools and high-need early childhood centers receive vision screenings by eye professionals and when medically appropriate, children also receive full eye exams and two pairs of eyeglasses - one for home and one for school.
Through this initiative approximately 20,000 children a year will be screened using state of the art instruments, and follow-up comprehensive vision exams will be provided for those identified with poor vision. Summer camp experiences for children with limited or no sight also are underway.
The Current Issue:
The weak economic climate over the past few years has resulted in a significant increase in homelessness and hunger in our country…including many children. In Collier County 63% of our children are defined as economically needy. And while these children are eligible for free or reduced-cost breakfast and lunch at school, for many children, these two meals represent their entire diet. In Collier County there have been efforts to respond to the need of childhood hunger; the majority of out of school programs offer children snacks, many summer programs provide meals and the Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida maintains relationships with twenty-six non-profit agencies who distribute food to Collier County’s most vulnerable populations, including twenty-two that focus on children’s needs. In fiscal year 2009-2010, the Food Bank reported a fifty-seven percent increase in the number of children accessing food at distributions sites. Currently the Harry Chapin Food Bank distributes approximately 1,200,000 pounds of food in Collier County.
Despite these efforts the problem persists. Hunger activists and community experts suggest that more than 8,000,000 pounds of food annually and more than 100 distribution sites would be required to fully meet the need in the community. Four years after the economic crisis, the need continues as hunger remains high. Recent research tells us that child food insecurity is more pervasive in rural counties - and Collier County is one of the largest rural counties in Florida. Despite being surrounded by beaches and beauty, 59% of the recipients of the food distributions are children.
NCEF's Contribution to the Solution:
Affectionately called “Lunch Boxes of Love,” this initiative provides nutritious food to children and their families who struggle with food insecurity- the fear of not knowing where their next meal will come from. Since 2011, 40,000 children have benefitted. This innovative approach to food access enables deliveries to remote and needy sections of Collier County utilizing large refrigerated trucks. Through NCEF’s ability to maximize its financial investment and brokering of relationships, Lunch Boxes of Love has provided a total of 1.6 million meals to date.
This mobile food distribution is only one part of a deliberate and strategic plan to ensure children and families have increased capacity and access to nutritious food. Other aspects of the initiative include strategies such as school-based food pantries and increasing the capacity of current food distribution sites with plans of retro-fitting current space to allow for perishable food storage all with the goal to eliminate barriers for children with food insecurity. Partner organizations include Harry Chapin Food Bank and Meals of Hope. Thanks to NCEF, over the next three years, more than 4,000,000 meals will be distributed to hungry children.