April 19, 2016

Diane McElveen, a resident services coordinator at Parkside Garden Apartments in Ocala, Fl., frequently witnesses residents struggling with food insecurity, or the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. According to McElveen, the problem has only been exacerbated since the onset of the nation’s economic crisis six years ago. The summer months are particularly hard on the children she works with because they are away from school and unable to benefit from free or reduced-cost breakfasts and lunches provided by the school system. 

“As a single mother raising three children, I understand the meaning of stretching the buck.  When children are home for the summer, they incur a whole host of new expenses, one being food,” said McElveen. In response to this need, McElveen worked with local partners to establish a summer lunch and snack program for almost 50 of Parkside Garden’s children. The program offers nutritious lunches and snacks during the week and also provides a safe environment for the children to have fun, play games, and socialize.

“Our summer feeding program gives the children nourishing meals so the parents and guardians can spend their dollars on other necessities without also having to worry about how they’re going to put food in their children’s stomachs. That’s what resident services is all about,” McElveen remarked.

Hunger is particularly detrimental to children because of the critical role nutrition plays in a child’s physical and emotional development and his or her ability to achieve academically.  Oftentimes, malnourished children struggle with social and behavioral problems that negatively impact their ability to learn.  Senior citizens frequently suffer from food insecurity as well, with many on a fixed income and facing medical challenges. The elderly are sometimes forced to make a choice between paying for their medical prescription or the week’s groceries.

Recognizing that hunger is a reality for many of its residents, CHP’s resident services department has implemented a variety of food distribution and feeding services across its multifamily footprint that accounts for 66 percent of the department’s resources. In addition to after-school and summer feeding programs for children, CHP also works with partners such as USDA to provide access to on-site and mobile food pantries, as well as a number of other partners such as Meals on Wheels, Feeding America, and Panera Bread who offer supplemental food options for seniors, disabled residents, and families in need. Additionally, CHP supports community potluck meals among its residents, which minimizes the cost of food preparation while encouraging social engagement.

In 2015, CHP Resident Services served 63,250 snacks and meals to its rental community residents, while 2,068 households accessed CHP food pantry and distribution services 19,580 times, reported Angie Roberts-Dobbins, CHP’s vice president of resident services. “No one should have to go to bed hungry,” asserted Roberts-Dobbins, “and we at CHP are doing what we can to make sure our most vulnerable residents don’t have to worry about where their next meal is coming from."