Multiplication of Loaves: Flagler Radio’s Food-A-Thon on July 8 aims to buy $1 million worth of food for the needy


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Flagler County has maintained a tradition of giving to those most in need over the years – the massive $100,000 food drop organized by the Palm Coast Government during Covid, the annual walk for food hosted by Grace Community Food Pantry once a year, raising approximately $25,000, the annual Team Feed Flagler each November, which last year provided 1,300 families with $35 gift cards, a $45,000 effort and, of course, the Education Way’s Grace Community weekend food drops off US 1, underwritten by ongoing donations that total approximately $100,000 in a typical year – $175,000 in the year of Covid.

But Flagler has never known such a big push: the drive to raise $200,000 for Grace Community, and get it all done by July 8, when it culminates in a six-month live Food-a-thon. hours on Flagler Broadcasting’s four radio stations, hosted by David Ayres, the president of the broadcasting company that conceived the idea.

“We’re going to start the thermometer on July 8 at nine o’clock in the morning on Free for All and we’ll be streaming until three o’clock in the afternoon,” Ayres said, “and hopefully in the six hours, we can reach our goal of $200,000. Ayres has been in broadcasting for much of his five-decade career, and with Flagler Broadcasting since its launch nearly 15 years ago. He has developed a countless events, tying them to one charity or another, but nothing on this scale before.

In the food pantry world, $1 in cash can be transformed into the equivalent of about $5.5 in food value: that’s 18 cents for a pound of food, says Charles Silano, who runs Grace Community Food Pantry. The idea is to provide the equivalent of $100 per week of food to the families served by Silano. This $100 of food value means that each family will have saved an additional $100, which they can spend elsewhere. As Ayres calculates, $100 a week, $400 a month, multiplied by 3,500 families, equals $1.4 million in “cash freed up and in our local economy,” Ayres said. It’s another way of “being local, but local,” he said, echoing the slogan launched at the Milissa Holland town hall in Palm Coast a few years ago. This is the multiplier effect that Ayers insists on.

The money raised and the food purchased will ensure these food parcels long after Jan. 1, Silano said, particularly insuring purchases of frozen protein meat, in particular, which is “one of the main draws of the pantry.” . He likes to provide families with 10 pounds of such protein. He can’t always do it with his supplies. Last week he ordered five pallets of meat and only received two. “So we barely survived the weekend on frozen protein. And that concerns me because people are waiting in line for quite a long time,” he said. At the end of the day, he was handing out two books instead of 10. The food-a-thon could help address these shortcomings.

How did it all start?

“I was talking with Charles,” Ayres said, “I said, so $200,000 can buy $1 million worth of food, and he says, yeah, you know, and his eyes sort of went wide . And I said, well, so that’s our goal: get you $1 million worth of food, and then he kind of said, well, let’s call it a Million Dollar Food-A-Thon. That’s all it took. For the past two weeks, Ayres, Silano and others have been breaking the news on Free For All Fridays, the weekly public affairs show hosted by Ayres, and the checks have been rolling in, from individuals, businesses or d organizations.

They are not yet counted. This will happen during the live food-a-thon. He also wrote help. “I’m not big on committees, as you know,” Ayres said. So he tapped former Palm Coast mayor Milissa Holland, who when she was county commissioner designed what used to be called Feed Flagler, the large-scale Thanksgiving events that provided meals to thousands of people and turned into Team Feed Flagler. Holland takes care of the clerical community. He reached out to current Mayor David Alfin, who will work in the government sector, and realtor Kathy Austrino – who has her own foundation, and therefore a nonprofit background – to spread the word in the realtor community. .

Ayres takes care of the business community: AdventHealth Palm Coast contributes with its employees, the Flagler County Education Foundation reaches out to the district’s 1,700 employees, Lacy Martin of the Flagler County government hosted a fundraising contest. “Often the people who have the least are the ones who give the most,” Ayres said. “A little of a lot of people adds up, and we had a few people who made a big donation.” An example: Ayres received a letter from a couple living in New Jersey who listen to WNZF there and who are considering moving to Palm Coast. They donated $50, their way of being part of the community.

Silano’s Grace Community Food Pantry serves a varying number of families each month, depending on the time of year and circumstances. During Covid, the pantry peaked at 6,500 families per month. He then fell. This month, he expects to be at about 4,500 families, but the numbers are growing: Silano receives about five emails a day from people wanting to sign up. Last week, the numbers jumped to 180 visits. He thinks he’ll hit 5,000 families by August, with inflation and gas prices taking their toll, and all the projections he sees point to more needs, not less. More and more families are asking for deliveries, which Silano cannot necessarily accept. Some families don’t want to burn gasoline, in line, waiting for their pickup.

“Most of the people who come to me are working families, and even though they have two paychecks, they’re barely making it because of the cost of everything,” Silano said. “So hopefully that alleviates some emotions, because food insecurity creates some emotional distress, and that spills over into other areas. It just spills over into relationships.

100% of the money raised will not necessarily go towards food, but towards the infrastructure that Silano needs to ensure food can be provided and is not wasted. The food pantry needed a refrigerated truck that could both store food on site, allowing them to buy more food in volume, at a lower price, and be used to distribute food throughout the count. But that could be an expense of $85,000. Silano is hoping for a separate donation that could cover that cost.

“Infrastructure is key,” Silano said. “If you don’t have the infrastructure, you can’t handle these big deliveries. You don’t have the ability. It’s just going to be wasted.

Meanwhile, families and others are dealing with a heavy cost of living: the median price of a single-family home in Flagler is now $400,000, the rent for a three-bedroom is around $800 a month, at the lower end, says Austrino, the real estate agent. She sees extended families increasingly relying on each other to meet expenses. She seized on the food-a-thon as a direct way to help. “You know, no donation is too small. And all I did was get attention and make myself available,” Austrian said. “If they have something they would like to donate, I can go get it, or a gentleman was here last week to chat. I’m just trying to make it as easy as possible for people to come together on this one. It’s going very well.

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