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In an inspiring display of faith and dedication, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has continued to deepen its relationship with Second Harvest of the Big Bend (SHBB) and serve the local communities in and around Tallahassee. The culmination of several years of collaboration and support, this partnership reached a new pinnacle, Monday, October 24th, with a donation of $950,000.

This substantial contribution is set to have a profound impact on the local community, increasing food distribution from 15 million to 25 million pounds annually, providing an additional 8.2 million meals to those in need across the 16 counties in Florida’s Big Bend area.

What makes this donation especially meaningful is the history of support and collaboration between the Church and SHBB. Several months ago, Elder Matthew Holland (a member of the Church’s Quorum of the Seventy) visited local church members and because of last-minute schedule changes, organized an impromptu meeting with leaders of SHBB. Deeply inspired and impressed by the vision and unwavering commitment of Second Harvest, he returned to Salt Lake City and encouraged other Church leaders to consider this substantial donation. It’s a testament to God’s goodness and his ability to work through those who love him to make a real difference in the lives of those facing food insecurity.

The donation will also play a vital role in the establishment of an Impact Center, where the focus will be on community nutrition education and self-reliance training. This reflects a shared commitment to not only provide immediate relief but also empower individuals and communities for a more sustainable future.

“One out of every three children in the Tallahassee region does not have consistent access to healthy, nutritious food,” said Monique Ellsworth, Second Harvest’s chief executive officer. “Food insecurity has been steadily increasing, and we need more organizations like The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to recognize the growing need and ask, ‘How can I help?’”

In addition to this generous financial support, local church leaders arranged to fly leaders from Second Harvest of the Big Bend to Salt Lake City.  On this visit last April, three key members of the Second Harvest team toured Welfare Square, the main Bishops’ Storehouse, a dairy farm, a bakery and more – all demonstrating the Church’s commitment to both take care of its own members and to ease suffering in the world.  The Church resources produced in these facilities are now shared with the needy in many parts of the world, without regard to religion, race, or ethnicity of the recipients.  Justin Greer of Second Harvest explained that the exchange of ideas and experiences between these organizations provided insights into processes and organizational techniques that have inspired and proven helpful to Second Harvest.

In 2022, Second Harvest distributed 14 million pounds of food, serving as a lifeline for communities in the 16 counties of the Big Bend region, including Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Jackson, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Taylor, Wakulla, Columbia, Dixie, Hamilton, Lafayette, and Suwanee counties.

Elder Vern P. Stanfill, president of the North America Southeast Area for the Church of Jesus Christ, highlighted the Church’s commitment to following Christ’s teachings of loving our neighbors. “We strive to answer that calling as we seek to join efforts with organizations like Second Harvest of Big Bend, who serve on the front lines of poverty blessing those in need,” Elder Stanfill said.

The challenges faced by the 16-county area served by Second Harvest include poverty, food insecurity, limited access to markets, and insufficient infrastructure. Second Harvest has received substantial food donations from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the past, including a recent contribution of four semi-trailer loads, totaling 181,609 pounds of food, from the Bishops’ Central Storehouse in Salt Lake City. Each truck load provides enough food to feed 5,600 people for a week.

The Church’s dedication to assisting communities in times of crisis was evident in September 2023 when over 5,000 LDS volunteers were dispatched to aid disaster relief efforts following Hurricane Idalia. Additionally, the Church contributed $200,000 to Second Harvest of Big Bend to support communities affected by the hurricane.

Stake President Ben Smith, the Church’s leader in the Tallahassee area, reflected on the positive impact of Second Harvest’s work and the example set by the Savior Jesus Christ. He noted, “The Savior Jesus Christ provides a similar example, lifting the one so they can go about serving others. In this pattern, individuals, families, and communities are better.” This partnership between The Church of Jesus Christ and Second Harvest of the Big Bend is a testament to the collective effort of community members working as instruments in God’s hands.