Since 2019, Smart City has provided the funding needed for thousands of full holiday meal kits for struggling families through Heart of Florida United Way’s Thanksgiving Project. This year’s investment combined with other sponsors will provide Thanksgiving meals to 4,000 households in Central Florida.
“Since our founding in 1969, our company has grown in large measure due to the success of Central Florida”, said Marty Rubin, CEO and President, Smart City. He added that “over the past half century we have strongly believed that with our success comes the responsibility to give back to the community. We seek to contribute in ways that reflect broadly held values, have meaningful impact, and work with great community partners. Over the past five years the Heart of Florida United Way has been simply amazing.”
With the cost of living in Central Florida continuing to increase, a holiday meal is not feasible for many families living on an extremely tight budget. The Thanksgiving Project, Heart of Florida United Way’s community-wide volunteer project that packages and distributes to meal kits, has been in place for five years to support ALICE families, described as Asset Limited, Income Constrained and Employed.
According to HFUW’s most recent ALICE Report, the number of Central Florida households unable to afford basic needs increased post-pandemic, reflecting a total of 386,077 households throughout Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties. This number includes the 110,250 Central Florida households living in poverty, as well as another 275,827 families defined as ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed), earning above the Federal Poverty Level but less than what’s needed to survive with the escalating cost of living in Central Florida. ALICE families have been overlooked and undercounted by traditional poverty measures.
Local partner agencies and school districts nominated and referred families to the initiative. The meal kits include shelf-stable holiday staples including stuffing, mashed potatoes, vegetables, gravy mix, apple pie filling and crust, roasting pan, and cranberry sauce in addition to a $30 grocery gift card to purchase protein of choice. The kit also includes a resource folder with agency information for year-round assistance.
“Between continued economic pressure, inflation and the slippery financial slope ALICE families find themselves on, a Thanksgiving meal simply would not have happened if not for the Smart City,” said Jeff Hayward, President & CEO, Heart of Florida United Way. “Heart of Florida United Way and the 4,000 families served by their generosity are very thankful for this grant making the holiday a little brighter for many.”