House of Hope Approaches 2-Million Milestone
For most organizations, approaching a 2 million mark would be cause for celebration. For House of Hope, it’s both a cause for celebration and a concern for the community. In 2019, pre-Covid, House of Hope distributed more than 970,000 pounds to those in need in Martin County. In 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, that number jumped to nearly 1.5 million pounds. Rob Ranieri, CEO of House of Hope, anticipates they will exceed the 2-million-pound mark before the end of 2021.
The Covid pandemic has made every basic need more urgent and more challenging to fill. Certainly, no need is more basic than food. “People who would never have imagined that they would be wondering where they would get their next meal have come to our doors seeking food during the pandemic,” Ranieri says. “It’s taken determination, creativity, and all of our community partners working together to address this growing issue of food insecurity in Martin County.”
Generous donors in the community supply food to the House of Hope Food Pantry or make cash donations, and grocery stores such as Publix and state-wide partner Farm Share supplement the donations. During the pandemic, the Martin County Board of County Commissioners and the United Way of Martin County stepped forward as partners, using federal CARES ACT dollars to assist House of Hope in feeding the increased number of hungry families and individuals.
Several years ago, House of Hope’s leadership realized they needed to do things differently if they were going to not only supply food but supply good nutrition. “Nutrition and health are a major part of the equation at House of Hope. The link between poor health and poverty is irrefutable. Part of our mission is giving people the skills and knowledge to make better food choices. We want to not only feed people but feed them well,” Ranieri says.
Growing Hope Farm in Palm City is an innovative House of Hope program that uses hydroponic farming to grow fresh fruits and vegetables which are then made available to low-income residents through House of Hope’s four pantries and network of food partners.
“We know fresh foods improve our diets,” Ranieri says, “but they are often cost-prohibitive for the people we serve.” By growing their own, using both staff and volunteers, House of Hope is able to offer regular access to healthy, fresh foods, delivering 1,400 packages of produce weekly.
A $100,000 grant House of Hope recently received from Impact 100 Martin will make it possible to expand the program during the coming year. With the help of previous grants and donations, the expansion also includes completing a dedicated packing house with its own cold storage and the planting of a fruit tree orchard.
The Elizabeth Lahti Nutrition Center, on-site at House of Hope’s main location in Stuart, is a pristine commercial kitchen where 1600 packages of healthy meals and salads are prepared for clients and partners every week, in addition to sandwiches provided daily to clients experiencing homelessness.
Particularly during Covid, the entire community has stepped forward to help with the unprecedented need for food. Support from the Community Foundation Martin-St. Lucie, the United Way of Martin County, and the Martin County Board of County Commissioners, as well as the local Funders Consortium and individual donations, have assured that no one who is hungry is turned away.
“It’s difficult to predict whether the 2-million-pound mark is a once-in-a-lifetime high or whether we will need to sustain ever-higher needs for food,” Ranieri says. “Whatever happens, House of Hope will rise to the challenge, and with our partners, we’ll continue to be an innovative beacon of hope in Martin County for those in need.”
About House of Hope
Founded in 1984, House of Hope is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers Martin County residents to overcome hunger and hardship. House of Hope touches the lives of more than 7,000 people each month helping with basic needs such as food, clothing, furniture, financial assistance, as well as longer-term case management services that help build life skills for a more self-sufficient future.
The organization has service centers and thrift stores in Stuart, Hobe Sound, Indiantown, and Jensen Beach. House of Hope’s Golden Gate Center for Enrichment in Stuart offers free programs, technology, and workshops designed to enhance life skills, earning potential, health, and overall well-being.
House of Hope also operates the Growing Hope Farm in Palm City and several nutrition gardens that provide sustainable sources of fresh produce for clients as well as nutrition education and vocational opportunities to the community. For more information, visit hohmartin.org or call 772-286-4673. Updates and announcements can also be found on Facebook, Instagram Instagram, and Twitter.