When one door closed—feeding Florida Blue employees in-house—another opened in the form of a partnership with Feeding NE Florida (FNEFL). Director Damian Monticello and his Flik foodservice team have prepared more than 300,000 meals for seniors in need through a new project that came to be called Project SHARE.
“Without you there would be so many seniors who wouldn’t know where their next meal is coming from; it’s not just a meal, it’s a lifeline. You are connecting with people who are by themselves,” said Susan King, executive director of FNEFL, addressing Monticello during a special celebration recently recognizing the 300,000th meal prepared.
Monticello praised his team and the overall foodservice industry’s big heart as the catalyst for this initiative.
“Being part of the hospitality industry,” he said, “I’m always amazed at the way we step up. For an industry that was impacted as severely as this one was, when we came to the table, our first response is ‘How can we help?’ Knowing what was happening in our own world, with 75% of foodservice workers being laid off…it just speaks volumes for what this industry is and what this industry does.”
Project SHARE started as a short-term response to the pandemic, but just as the pandemic has worn on, so has the project—a silver lining during a dark time. Florida Blue’s Jacksonville campus normally hosts 7,000 employees, a number which is now down to the hundreds.
“There is no end date for the partnership at this time,” says Toni Woods, Florida Blue senior regional communications lead, North Region. “The need is still there, and the Florida Blue campus is still mostly empty as most employees continue to work from home, so the kitchen can continue to be used to prepare these meals for seniors while also providing jobs for the 43 foodservice employees.”
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