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  • Writer's pictureEpic-Cure,Inc.

The Almost Monthly Epic-Cure Newsletter December 2023



Awareness:

An easy, impactful way that you can help us is to please …


Save And Drop Off Your Grocery Store Plastic Bags.


You will help reduce waste by allowing us to re-use them. You will save us money by reducing the number we have to purchase.


Operations & Fundraising



We would like to share with you an update that we have recently share with a number of our partners and supporters. This update covers some common ground – many of you will find it a nice refresher on what Epic-Cure. stands for and how we serve our local community. It also provides a frank assessment of the challenges we face as we navigate through the holiday giving season. In short, at a time when our expenses are rising faster than the general inflation rate (our costs are up more than 15% in two years), our funding source have fallen (down an estimated 19%). Here is the update …


Epic-Cure®


Formed in December 2018, Epic-Cure. is an all-volunteer, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a

primary mission of feeding the food insecure and eliminating food waste. Through our partnership with Feeding Northeast Florida, we rescue food from grocery stores and restaurants, preventing it from collecting in landfills, where its decomposition yields methane gas (10x more harmful to the environment than excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere), and distributing it to the food insecure people of Northeast Florida, thus removing a major driver of personal stress and, thus, the ill health it creates. On a county by county basis, we also partner with the USDA for food donations that help to feed the food insecure in our communities.


On a related note, Epic-Cure. further addresses food insecurity through it cooking and nutrition education under the banner of its Sustain U.. program. By teaching veterans and Title 1 school students valuable life and career skills, we enable them to better fend for themselves. We have succeeded in placing several students in after school and summer jobs, showing them that they can achieve and, ultimately, provide for themselves. These efforts will, we hope, help them to break the tight grip of generational welfare and poverty.


To address the problem of food insecurity in our community, Epic-Cure. currently serves free food to about 2,200 food insecure families a week in St. Johns, Putnam, and Duval counties each week. On average, each family receives more than 67.5 pounds of food at each food distribution, which goes a long way to helping them make ends meet at a time when inflation has had a material and adverse effect on the most underserved – our patrons.


There are 12 weekly free food distributions in St. Johns County directly in the communities where the need is greatest, and where possible, we distribute food according to the “choice model,” allowing our patrons to browse through the food options and take only what they want. We believe that, consequently, less food is wasted and that we therefore empower our patrons, enhancing their dignity and making their experience of visiting an Epic-Cure. distribution a positive and affirming one.


St. Johns County Distribution Locations Map



In addition to those locations, we also provide free groceries to SAYS, the employees of The Arc of St. Johns, both Communities of Cenacolo, and we do 3 to 4 sets of home deliveries that serve between 60 and 90 families each week.


And this year we have provided 92,436 pounds of food to other St. Johns County non-profits.


In the five years that Epic-Cure. has operated, we have distributed more than 19.5 million pounds of food with a wholesale value more than $37 million to our Northeast Florida community. We have done this work efficiently: for every $1 we spend on operations, we return more than $35 worth of food to the community.



Environmental Impact



What we need:


We need financial assistance. Here is a brief update on how Epic-Cure is positioned financially as we approach year end.

  • For the past three years, our revenues (donations + grants) have fallen.

  • At the same time, our expenses have risen.


Here is what that looks like … in a simple graph.



The 2023 numbers do not yet include December. We expect our costs to be at least another $30,000 in December, bringing us to just under 2022’s expense number.


What can we expect in December on the revenue side of things? How do we expect that this Giving Season will turn out for Epic-Cure? Let’s look at history and trends.



Our revenues have shown a clear trend downward in each Giving Season. To equal our Giving Season revenues in 2022, we must raise $84,585 in December. In our five years of operations, Epic-Cure has never raised that much in a month.

  • In fact, we project raising about $20,000 in December, an amount which would result in a shortfall – expenses exceeding revenues – of more than $55,000 for all 2023.


We have some hard trade-offs in front of us. One relates to our home in St. Augustine, where our rent has increased to $4,961 monthly – up 77% since 2021, when it was $2,802 monthly. That is an extra $26,000 per year in rent. Wow.



As our St. Augustine lease is up for renewal, and as the only direction warehouse rents are going is up, should we renew the lease? If we do not, then we can consolidate all operations out of our Palatka warehouse. At 15,000 square feet that houses significant cold storage capacity, this facility can easily accommodate our needs; however, serving 1,000+ families and other non-profits in St. Johns County would almost certainly need to be scaled back. Palatka is a long way for St. Augustine volunteers to go to pitch in.


We do not want to abandon our St. Augustine operations facility. Too much good comes from it. So, what are we doing to address the severe shortfall in support? Here are a few things we are working on.

  • A campaign for recurring monthly support: If we can achieve $20,000 per month in recurring donations, we are highly confident in raising the remaining funding needed.

  • We are currently at $4,000 per month in recurrent donations and are working hard for more.

  • These monthly donations range from $10 to $400 per month and are a huge source of financial security for us.

  • We are asking for more financial support from Putnam County donors.

  • St. Johns County donors represent more than 95% of all donations. This ratio is out of whack.

  • We are working with the State of Florida and St. Johns County for funding for a permanent facility – with ample space for our logistical and food storage needs – in St. Augustine, but this will take time.

  • We hope to engage UF Health (formerly, Flagler Health+) to support and partner with us. After all, food is medicine.

  • And finally, we are always working on grants and fundraisers.


We love our mission, our volunteers, and our patrons. We will continue to work tirelessly and continuously to end food waste and food insecurity here at home in NE Florida. We hope that this update was helpful and that you can help spread the word seeking support for this important cause.


We are willing to roll up our sleeves and do the work. We just need help to have a home to do it from.


Fundraising


Make your holiday shopping easy and impactful. By gifting these Honor Cards, you are directly and immediately supporting families in need.


Orders can be placed by emailing: support@epic-cure.org





Interesting article Wendy Lantz, Nurse Practitioner and Board Member, recently shared with us:

by Mark Hyman, MD, Chairman, Institute for Functional Medicine


Not too long ago, a group of doctors and public health experts at Massachusetts General Hospital noticed something striking: Many of the patients who routinely showed up in the emergency room requiring the most medical services were also the patients who seemed to be the most nutritionally vulnerable.


They were patients with heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and other largely food-related chronic diseases. For hospitals and health insurers, these are among the highest cost, highest-need patients. Working with a local nonprofit group called Community Services, the doctors decided to launch a study to see whether providing these patients with nutritious meals would have an impact on their healthcare outcomes.


The researchers recruited Medicaid and Medicare patients and split them into different groups. One group received regular deliveries of healthy meals that were made from scratch and designed by a registered dietitian: Each meal contained ingredients like locally caught seafood and locally grown Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, zucchinis, fruits and other fresh produce that nearby farms donated. Another group received nutritious meals, but they weren’t specifically tailored to their individual medical needs. The third group did not receive any of the nutritious meal deliveries. What the study found in the ensuing weeks was astonishing. The two groups that had nutritious meals had fewer hospital visits, ultimately resulting in a 16 percent reduction in their health care costs. And that was after deducting meal expenses.


The average monthly medical costs for a patient in the nutrition group shrank to about $843—much

lower than the roughly $1,413 in medical costs for each patient in the control group.


These types of groups recognize what our federal government sadly does not: To tackle the crisis, our national food policies must be aligned with our healthcare policies. Instead of just treating rampant chronic diseases, we have to start preventing them—and we can do that with our forks.


Which leads us to this:

School Food Waste


In response to the email sent to the Director and Assistant Director of Foodservice for St. Johns County Schools, we met on 11/28 to discuss how we might be of assistance – anything from conducting food waste audits, helping improve nutrition by improving the menu and training kitchen staff, to providing more free fresh options through our food rescue program and connecting them to farms for surplus food.


As you can imagine, their job is difficult with a lot of red tape. They do conduct food waste audits as part of their standard operating procedures. We will see if we can obtain copies of those audits and nutrition reports on meals and “smart snacks” so we can learn more. The benefit of the meeting is we now better understand some of their challenges. We have reached out to several of the food service managers of schools that have adopted healthier standards to see if they can offer advice on how they overcame some of those challenges – suppliers, staffing, training, serving kids fast enough so they have time to eat, dealing with inflation, etc.


We all agreed to adsorb what we discussed and meet again to share thoughts.


We’d love to see our local school districts update their mission statement and goals to those of the USDA and other schools that are leading the way.


USDA 3/2/22 Memo Code: SP 05-2022


“Minimum nutrition standards also support Program integrity and the responsible use of taxpayers’

money by ensuring that children are offered wholesome foods that optimize health and academic achievement and minimize the risk of long-term chronic diseases.”


USDA Proposes New Rules to Cut Sugar, Salt in School Meals


"Many children aren’t getting the nutrition they need, and diet-related diseases are on the rise. Research shows school meals are the healthiest meals in a day for most kids, proving that they are an important tool for giving kids access to the nutrition they need for a bright future," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in an agency news release.


Vilsack said the agency's goal is to get school guidelines to align with U.S. dietary guidelines for the nearly 30 million children who eat lunch at school and the 15 million who have breakfast there.


The American Heart Association applauded the move.


"By proposing to limit the amount of added sugars in school meals for the first time ever, the USDA is taking a major step toward helping children achieve a more nutritious diet and better health," the AHA said in a statement. "Added sugars are a significant source of excess calories, provide no nutritional value and may cause weight gain and increased risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other chronic health conditions."



We applaud these schools for being champions for children:


Our focus is on enhancing the diet of students with more nutritious choices and by providing nutrition education that will help students form healthy habits.

Shapleigh School, Maine


Well-nourished students are ready to learn. Food and Nutrition Services team members are partners in education, contributing to a successful academic experience for students through an innovative, nutritious and cost-efficient program that encourages a lifetime of good nutrition. The program adheres to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the USDA National School Breakfast and Lunch Programs.

Chesterfield County Public Schools, VA


MISSION: To make available to each student every day an appetizing, affordable breakfast and lunch to provide nutrients for the body and mind so each may attain success in all areas of growth; physically, socially, emotionally and academically.

Hilton Central School District, NY


More examples of school meals and “Smart Snacks”. The Pop Tarts and Jungle Crakers are considered “Smart Snacks”.


Why are Smart Snacks important?


Almost a quarter of kids’ daily calories may come from snacks.


Kids who have healthy eating patterns are more likely to perform better academically.


Kids consume more healthy foods and beverages during the school day. When Smart Snacks are

available, the healthy choice is the easy choice.


Smart Snacks Standards are a Federal requirement for all foods sold outside the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program.




Here is our PIPS (Pounds In & People Served) Graph


Notes on the graph:

We have taken out the FEMA pounds from December and January to give a more accurate representation of how the last 12 months have been. Holidays always affect pound in and number of distributions. We have more truck and storage capacity and are always looking to make connections to new sources. We can only increase the number of distributions and people served when we get steady increase in sources.


Volunteer Spotlight

By Janet McNabb


Mark Shutt


The Bionic Man scurries around the St. Augustine warehouse at least three days a week doing all the things that need to be done. “Who is this?” you ask! None other than our dynamic Mark Shutt. Mark has a very good reason for keeping so busy. If he stopped, he might not get started again.


It all happened just after boot camp. He and a friend went to a concert. While leaning on the rail of the balcony, the rail collapsed and both men fell to the concrete forty feet below. For the next nine months he was in the University of Maryland Shock Hospital, Johns Hopkins, with a broken neck, multiple other injuries, and numerous surgeries. Nine months in rehabilitation followed, with the warning that he may not ever really regain normal function again, including walking. He’d been in a full body cast and a halo. That became the challenge of his life: to prove them wrong!


So, for the next fifteen to twenty years he hitchhiked around the United States, stopping to work when he ran out of money. Since his profession is a cook, he could pick up work easily.


Ultimately he worked as a baker for the National Security Agency in Fort Meade. His bakery specialties were presented in the Pentagon and the Annex. Not the White House, he said, because they have their own baker. He thoroughly enjoys baking, particularly fruit pies, but cakes are so much fun because he can be so creative with them.


Originally from Reisterstown Maryland, he now lives in St. Augustine with his wife Angela. Together they have a blended family of children, a pet dachshund, and a red footed tortoise that was a rescue from the Alligator Farm.


If he’s not working in the warehouse, he’s working around their home. He loves gardening. Their

gardens include fruit, vegetables, flowers, and other plants. They use only natural products and organic materials.


He has volunteered extensively throughout his life. When a friend came to Epic-Cure for food, he tagged along, and found that he really “liked this place”, and felt it seemed like a very caring organization. So now he loads, unloads, directs, and manages to keep that body that contains so much metal moving and active. He comes in early and stays late, doesn’t mind helping on holidays or whenever he is needed.


He has certainly proved all the medical people wrong. He is more active by far than most able bodied non-bionic people.


Thank you for making Epic-Cure the beneficiary of your decision to keep going, pushing on, proving them wrong. We love you for it!


Sustain U.®


Our last cooking class at the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Centerstone, Florida for this year was a tasting experience. We learned the difference between regular and aged balsamic vinegar in salad dressing. We had delicious ciabatta bread from the market at Asadolife that we paired with both Garlic and Tuscan Herb infused olive oils from The Ancient Olive of Saint Augustine. Then we explored how wonderfully mint and dill go together in marinades and sauces for chicken.


We’re already planning our next session that will begin in January.






Transparency:

Anyone who wishes to see Epic-Cure’s financial statements need only ask.

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