By Dawn Krebs
ST. LUCIE COUNTY -- Patrick Murphy, the newly elected congressman for the 18th district, took the morning on Feb. 21 to learn more about the food needs of the residents of St. Lucie County, and how the nonprofit group Treasure Coast Food Bank works to meet those needs.
According to a national study, about one in three children on the Treasure Coast doesn't have enough to eat, which amounts to more than 33,000 students in the four county area of St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River and Okeechobee counties.
"I applaud you all for the work you do," Congressman Murphy said. "A lot of individuals who lost their jobs through no fault of their own are struggling now."
He was shown the process of how the food comes in from area donations, and how it is sorted and distributed to be given to local groups to be disbursed to the community.
He went on to discuss how the potential effects of the looming national sequester could impact hunger relief in this area.
"This sequester is a major problem," he said. "It's so short-sighted."
To help fill the needs of local families, the organization established a number of food programs, such as the summer feeding program that ensures students receive at least one meal a day while school is not in session.
In September last year, Judith Cruz, the CEO of the food bank, was named the president of the Florida Association of Food Banks.
"Three years ago, we were assisting 42,000 people a week," Ms. Cruz said. "Now it's grown to 107,000."
Ms. Cruz says she plans to meet with Congressman Murphy in March when she visits Washington for the annual anti-hunger policy conference.
The organization, which contributes to more than 250 food-related charities in the four-county area, is always looking for donations of food, money and volunteers to keep the program a success.
For more information, call (772) 489-3034 or go online to www.stophunger.org.