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USF, Feeding Tampa Bay launch research alliance

TAMPA, Fla. — With about 700,000 food-insecure people living in Tampa Bay, the University of South Florida and Feeding Tampa Bay formed the Hunger Action Alliance, a strategic partnership to find solutions to this complex problem. The USF College of Arts and Sciences, USF College of Public Health and Feeding Tampa Bay will work together to improve hunger relief efforts and study thelong-term health effects of food insecurity.

“USF’s partnership with Feeding Tampa Bay fills the critical void in understanding how food insecurity impacts our community and allow us to develop solutions to end hunger,” said Eric Eisenberg, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “I am proud that our researchers are committed to improving the lives of Tampa Bay citizens.”

Ph.D., graduate and undergraduate students will work with USF faculty and Feeding Tampa Bay staff to conduct field studies on how hunger affects the 700,000 food-insecure people in Tampa Bay.

“Many people don’t understand the scope of hunger in our community and the fact that food insecurity is an ever-present, ongoing crisis,” said Thomas Mantz, executive director of Feeding Tampa Bay. “For the first time, we’re creating a mechanism where the effects of hunger can be studied, understood and ultimately changed.”

The first research study completed by USF and Feeding Tampa Bay focused on child hunger and the Backpack Program, where weekend meals are given to elementary students in need. This program has been a key focus for Feeding Tampa Bay as poor nutrition in children can lead to stunted growth and cognitive development, impaired learning, and increased risk of chronic diseases.

The study revealed that the BackPack Program, which delivers more than 1,000 bags each week to local food-insecure children, had noticeable behavior impacts on recipients. Many students benefited from improved concentration and more excitement about learning in school as a result of receiving food through the Backpack Program.

Further, the study found that the Backpack Program also improved thehome-family life of recipients, as the food helped provide more meals to the entire family. As Feeding Tampa Bay seeks to expand the Backpack Program, the food bank is exploring how it can better educate families about the foods they receive and increase the amount of food provided.

Other studies currently planned include researching the use of freshproduce in hunger-relief programs and it impacts the health outcomes for food-insecure families.

The ultimate vison of the two organizations is to create a regional coalition with like-minded partners from other industry sectors – such as healthcare, insurance and social services. Their contributions would include helping identify food insecurity challenges in the Tampa Bay region, creating workable solutions to attack the most pressing challenges, and sharing knowledge andoutcomes that create best practices with other communities.


Filed under:Arts and Sciences