Florida Matters Town Hall: Food Insecurity In Polk County

Apr 19, 2017

Polk County is a place of so many contradictions. It's the home of beautiful lakes, charming downtowns and historic landmarks. But this birthplace of several of Florida's governors, was also named by one recent study as having the country's second largest percentage of people struggling to avoid hunger.


We hosted a town hall on this issue on April 17 at Florida Southern College’s Annie Pfeiffer Chapel. Florida Matters host Robin Sussingham talked to people who are on the front lines of this fight against hunger and deprivation about what they've learned, and we also held a Q&A with our audience of about 80 people.

This week on Florida Matters, we listen to highlights from our town hall on food insecurity in Polk County.

Our panelists include:

  • Patricia Strickland, Executive Director of KidsPACK, which provides food for students to take home on the weekends.
  • Whitney Fung, a doctoral student at USF's College of Public Health. Whitney was previously an agent with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Program in Bartow.
  • Steve Turbeville, President and CEO of Lighthouse Ministries, a faith-based shelter in Lakeland that offers comprehensive services to the needy, and also distributes food boxes to area churches.

Panelists from Florida Matters' town hall on food insecurity in Polk County. Patty Strickland (l), Steve Turbeville, Whitney Fung and host Robin Sussingham.
Credit Stephanie Colombini / WUSF

We also learn about some non-profits in Polk that are taking creative steps to alleviate hunger. Florida Matters reporter Julio Ochoa explains that some of the things they've learned are surprising.