Adam Putnam, Florida’s commissioner of agriculture, helped the Bradenton, Florida future farmers of America with a very meaningful project: getting food to the hungry. WTSP in Tampa recently reported that Putnam was bagging sweet potatoes with the local students.

He told reporters, “In an era where people are pretty down on the next generation, these are kids that make you feel good about our future.” He stressed that the problem isn’t lack of food, it is access to the ones who need it.

That region has over 800,000 people each year who need food assistance. About one quarter of them are children, and well over half eat food past their expiration date. Cindy Sloan with the Food Bank of Manatee expressed concerns that hungry children aren’t as productive at school. Her goal is to have a hunger-free community. Each month, the food bank gives out 400,000 pounds of food, and three quarters of families have to choose between their bills and food. Aubrey Rife with the Palmetto FFA is glad to know that these children will “have a meal on the table.”

The phosphate company, Mosaic put together a Hunger-Relief Form, and Putnam was the keynote speaker. Putnam’s program uses sophisticated computer technology to correlate “lack of access to nutritious food with poor health indicators.”

Some startling hunger-related facts show that almost 20% are the elderly, roughly 17% of residents in Tampa Bay need help getting enough food, more than two out of five have their high school diploma or equivalent, and 1/5 of them has someone in the family who served in the military.