AdventHealth, Orlando Health partner with School District of Osceola County to address food insecurity
The SMART and READ Bus initiative provides food assistance and educational support to students in greatest need.
KISSIMMEE, Fla., Nov. 19, 2020 — AdventHealth and Orlando Health today announced a partnership with the School District of Osceola County (SDOC) to address food insecurity in the region by expanding the county’s SMART Bus initiative.
The SMART Bus provides food, nutrition education and general academic support to meet the needs of the more than 2,500 homeless students enrolled in Osceola County — some of whom reside in the hotels and motels along the U.S. Highway 192 corridor. During each visit, SMART Bus staff provides healthy snacks to students and records their biometrics, offering health interventions when needed.
Food insecurity was identified as one of the top community health needs in Osceola County in the 2019 collaborative Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA). According to the CHNA, before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 63 percent of students in Osceola County received free and reduced lunch, and two out of every five Osceola County respondents indicated they did not have access to healthy, affordable food.
“Orlando Health is committed to helping the communities we serve be as healthy as possible. Food insecurity is an important issue that can have lasting health impacts and we’re excited to work with community partners to create a solution for this area of need in Osceola County,” said Lainie Fox Ackerman, assistant vice president of external affairs and community benefit at Orlando Health. “Proper access to nutrition is critical to improving health and educational outcomes in students. By providing children and their families with tools to live a more healthy and active life, we can reduce the risk of developing chronic health conditions that at-risk communities face as a result of food insecurity.”
The bus is equipped with WiFi and laptops, two resources identified as needs for this population of students. SDOC staff can assist with homework and communicate with teachers to help track classroom progress.
“Nutrition and access to healthy food plays a significant role in a child’s development. From academic performance to maintaining a healthy weight to preventing chronic diseases like diabetes, this cannot be understated. And yet, there are food deserts across Central Florida, and children in our community go hungry or without access to nutritious foods,” said Doug Harcombe, CEO of AdventHealth Celebration. “The impact of COVID-19 on our community has heightened these needs even more, and it’s important that we come together to find solutions to help our neighbors. Partnerships such as this are key to our success in tackling our greatest health needs and making Central Florida a healthier place for all.”
The support from both health systems will allow the SMART Bus to serve four community centers throughout the county.
“Our outstanding partnership with Orlando Health and AdventHealth on this initiative allows us to create the bridge between health and academics for our most vulnerable students,” said Superintendent Dr. Debra Pace. “This is yet another way our school district is providing every child, every chance, every day.”
Additional funding from this joint effort will also support a second bus, the READ Bus, which focuses on early childhood literacy and nutritional needs.
Organizations interested in partnering with the school district on this initiative should contact Leslie Campbell, Director of Special Programs for the School District of Osceola County at 407-870-4934 or [email protected].