United Against Poverty, Indian River County, FL is Not a Food Pantry.


The reason United Against Poverty (UP) is not a food pantry is because it challenges the system that creates hunger in the first place.  It serves those in poverty by providing an array of interconnected services in crisis care, case management, transformative education, food and household subsidy, employment training and placement, personal empowerment training and active referrals to other collaborative social service providers.

According to UP Executive Director Annabel Robertson, “UP was founded to provide a HAND UP rather than a HANDOUT; to help those in need find a solution rather that just put a band-aid on the problem”.


Annabel Robertson

“The CEO of Catholic Charities Southwestern Ohio, Ted Bergh, said it best about what we do:  ‘”The gospels say feed the hungry, and we do that, but we also need to get people from being hungry.'”

UP advocates a “more is more” approach.  The more services and resources they can make available on-site, the more they help those who are hidden, hungry and hurting in our community.

In this article we are focusing UAP’s Member Share Grocery Program (MSGP), one of UP’s “interconnected services.”

UAP’s MSGP allows income qualified members [at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level] to personally select food, hygiene and household items in a dignified “grocery store” atmosphere.





Juicy Juice for $2.99.


On Amazon you can buy a four-pack for $ 24.95

Families may visit as often as they like, saving up to 70% of their household food and product budget.  This effectively amounts to two-months of income.

Members contribute a small handling fee per item to offset fuel, freight, warehouse and overhead costs, which allows the program to be sustainable. The meaningful financial exchange is part of their HAND UP model designed to restore dignity and teach empowerment rather than entitlement.

As an example of freight costs, if Kellogg calls from Michigan to say they have an extra load of cereal, UP sends a truck to get it.

UP occasionally receives criticism for charging a handling fee and not giving out groceries for free like a food pantry.

But, in response, UP follows the philosophy of Dr. Robert D. Lupton, a veteran urban activist and author of the revolutionary book Toxic Charity, that offers proven, results-oriented ideas for transforming our system of giving.

In Toxic Charity, Robert D. Lupton revealed the truth about modern charity programs meant to help the poor and disenfranchised. While charity makes donors feel better, he argued, it often hurts those it seeks to help.

Because most of our charities, he argues, are giveaway programs — food pantries, shelters, used clothing closets and the like.  According to Lupton, “these kinds of giveaways create dependency. Good-paying jobs, and not handouts, are the key to overcoming poverty.”

Lupton argues that most programs serving families living in poverty “create dependency and a disincentive to work”.

Lupton writes in Toxic Charity:By any objective measure United Against Poverty is moving the poverty needle better than an anyone else in the Country.”

UP’S other interconnected services include crisis care, case management, transformative education, employment training and placement, personal empowerment training and active referrals to other collaborative social service providers.

  • The UP Crisis Stabilization Program (CSP) operates in their Life Enrichment Center, where those in crisis situations can come for the skills, resources and coaching needed to stabilize their life and “works towards a permanent higher ground.”
  • Their Success Training Employment Program (STEP) is an adult workforce training program designed to help barriers to employment. The FIRSTsegment of this THREE- WEEKphase program is made up of 120 hours of classroom instruction. Once an individual has obtained employment, they are paired with a personal success coach who continue to work with them for three years to ensure they excel in their current position and become a strong candidate for future career opportunities.
  • EDUCATION PROGRAM: This program brings UP staff, volunteers, and partnering agencies together to provide workshops focusing on adult literacy, parenting, budgeting, nutrition, computer skills and more. Participants are connected with the opportunity to earn their high school diploma, with access to GED preparation.
  • COLLABORATION: UP believes that the more agencies they can partner with the better.  In 2015 they made 1,376 active referrals to partner agencies so that people in crisis could access the services they needed to stabilize their lives. These services included: healthcare, domestic violence counseling, mental health support, utility payoff relief, employment placement, education, senior services, veteran’s assistance, and child care.

By any objective measure United Against Poverty is moving the poverty needle better than an anyone else in the Country.”

To Be Continued…

 United Against Poverty (UP) was founded in 2003 by Austin and Ginny Hunt. A small member share grocery was opened in South Indian River County to serve those in need. The idea was to provide a hand up and not a hand out to people experiencing poverty. It was not a food bank but more of a co-op where people in need were able to maintain their dignity by paying for their own groceries.


If you like to bike, support the “Ride Poverty Out of Town” a premier cycling tour of the iconic Indian River Lagoon National Scenic Byway.

Benefiting United Against Poverty of Indian River County
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Saturday, February 23, 2019
Ride Start: 8:00 a.m.
Starting Location: South Beach Park in Vero Beach
Splash Party: 4 p.m. at Waldo’s in Vero Beach
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Enjoy world-class scenery on a ride filled with ocean views and historical sites such as McLarty Treasure Museum– the site of the 1715 Spanish Treasure Fleet wreck, which gave the Treasure Coast its name. With SAG stops in Sebastian Inlet and Melbourne Beach, Ride Poverty Out of Town is an opportunity for riders to enjoy the sights, sounds and camaraderie of cycling while giving back to the community. Participants may choose a route of either 40 miles or a full century (100 miles).

This community-based event is planned in conjunction with the year-long celebration of the Vero Beach Centennial. Bicyclists, here’s your chance to honor the history of Vero Beach while giving back to the community!

All funds raised from sponsorships, registration fees and participant fundraising pages will benefit United Against Poverty of Indian River County. United Against Poverty exists to inspire and empower people living in poverty to lift themselves and their families to economic self-sufficiency. We believe that poverty is not permanent, and people are not defined by their current circumstances.

For more information, please call 772-770-0740.







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