Dinner on the Grounds is a concept that goes back to the 1930s in which communities come together to have a large potluck dinner, usually after a church service or revival.
Now the same concept is being used to bring the community together to tackle food and nutrition insecurity in Pensacola with a fundraising event called Dinner on the Grounds from 6 to 11 p.m. Thursday at 5eleven Palafox.
The idea originated from Peter and Katrina Mougey, who witnessing the racial reckoning happening in the country during the summer of 2020 and felt they needed to get involved. They wanted to make a meaningful impactful on an issue in Pensacola and once they did their research, they found out about food insecurity, especially among children.
Manna Food Pantries:Photos: Manna Food Pantries prepares for 15th annual Pick A Bowl Fill A Bowl fundraiser
Food desert:How do you fix a food desert during a pandemic? Brownsville Farm Share plans to bridge gap
In Escambia County, 75% of children qualify for free or reduced lunch, and 62% of Escambia County residents live in food deserts, which are neighborhoods with little or no access to affordable or healthy foods.
“There’s two Publix within probably a two-minute drive of my house in East Hill,” said Peter Mougey, an attorney at the Levin Papantonio Rafferty Law Firm. “But you go down the street 15 minutes and there’s not a grocery store within 20 minutes by Baptist, which are predominantly African American neighborhoods.”
The Mougeys, the American Heart Association and other local leaders teamed up last year to co-found Heart of Pensacola to tackle health and nutrition locally. They provide 500 kids weekly with book bags containing healthy snacks and foods.
They also provide Baptist Hospital, Health & Hope Clinic, Community Health Northwest Florida and the Studer Community Institute with boxes of fresh produce, fruit, vegetables and whole grains, which are picked up by Manna Food Pantries and distributed to families.
Since September 2021, over 800 boxes and 6,000 backpacks have been distributed in the community.
For the Mougeys, the fundraiser will help bring awareness to the health and nutrition insecurities within the Pensacola community. It will also help create a think tank to bring people together to figure out how to address the problem.
Hopefully, their model of helping fight food insecurity can be replicated by others to handle similar problems of food insecurity in the city, state and even the region, Mougey said.
“It’s hard to eat healthy when you can’t afford it,” Mougey said. “So this isn’t a one-stop place, we have to get good jobs for people, access to good paying jobs, not minimum wage, we have to help educate people and we’ve got to give access and we can work on all those together and all those pieces come like a three-legged barstool.”
Dinner on the Grounds is this year’s version of the Heart Ball. The strolling supper event will showcase food from a variety of local chefs set to the score of a live band, Mr. Big and The Rhythm Sisters. The event will also feature a live auction and a Heart Market stocked with goods from local vendors.
For more information about the fundraiser and to register as a sponsor, purchase tickets or volunteer, visit the website for the Northwest Florida Heart Ball.