“Because food makes tomorrow possible” is the slogan of Feeding Tampa Bay (https://feedingtampabay.org/about). Feeding Tampa Bay (FTB) is an affiliate of the national Feeding America network which focuses on providing food to over 1 million food-insecure families in the 10-county area of West Central Florida. And in the coming weeks, Feeding Tampa Bay will join with Hernando County help agencies to become a ‘driving’ force in the lives of hungry residents, by way of the FTB Mobile Pantry.
“Hernando County is supported by Feeding Tampa Bay and our partners consistently,” said Shannon Hannon Oliviero, External Affairs Officer of Feeding Tampa Bay, “offering numerous opportunities for those in need to find food throughout the area.”
The Feeding Tampa Bay drive-thru Mobile Pantry offers pre-packaged groceries, free of charge–with no ID, papers, or pre-screening required. The pantry will visit People Helping People Wednesday, January 27, 10:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. at 1396 Kass Cir, Spring Hill.
“In partnership with Feeding Tampa Bay, People Helping People is offering a free food pantry,” read a People Helping People notice. “If you are in need of food, come to our drive-thru Mobile Pantry to pick up pre-packaged groceries, free of charge. Location: HELP Center, 1396 Kass Circle, Spring Hill.”
“I’m looking forward to working with Feeding Tampa Bay on this inaugural mobile pantry at the HELP Center,” said Becky Burton, executive director of People Helping People. “We expect to work together on many exciting things in the future with a goal of helping our neighbors in Hernando County.”
It is the mission of People Helping People “to end hunger in Hernando County.” And on a year-round basis, Feeding Tampa Bay is a part of this mission.
“Feeding Tampa Bay has a long-standing relationship with People Helping People,” said Oliviero. “They have been a CSFP (Commodity Supplemental Food Program) site for us, helping provide seniors with a bountiful box filled with groceries. When the pandemic first began, PHP stepped in and offered their building to store food to better support Hernando County. Ogretta Miller, a loyal FTB volunteer oversees the CSFP program there.”
“The new mobile pantry opportunity was created to support the area even further, helping provide healthy food options for those in need,” said Oliviero. “This is the only FTB staffed pantry scheduled at the People Helping People location. Following this event, we will be providing the PHP team with the food needed to manage future pantries internally.”
The mobile food pantry also will be visiting YMCA Spring Hill on February 4 from 4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. at YMCA of the Suncoast–Hernando County, 1300 Mariner Blvd, Spring Hill. Other YMCA/FTB mobile food pantry dates will include Thursday, March 4, at 4 pm – 5:30 pm, 4 pm – 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 1, and 4 pm – 5:30 p.m. Thursday, May 6.
“Our partnership with Feeding Tampa Bay started after Hurricane Irma when Hernando County was identified as part of their post-disaster response plan. It started as a six-month temporary endeavor but after the first few months, Feeding Tampa Bay saw that the need in the local area was present,” said Amber Slusser, Branch Executive Director of YMCA of the Suncoast–Hernando County. “We started with 80 households and just under 200 individuals being served with the mobile food pantry. It quickly grew to over 200 households and over 500 people being served. The monthly food pantry has been going two years strong now.”
Slusser sees the mobile food pantry as a true team effort.
“The awesome thing is that it is a collaborative effort that we can have for the community. Yes, Y members may participate if they are in need but it is a partnership that benefits the community at large,” she said. “We have Y staff that volunteer, we have volunteers from local churches, Rotary members and others that volunteer on pantry days. We have had organizations such as Wellcare come out to hand out household essentials alongside the pantry as well as Representative Blaise Ingoglia setting up a partnership with Spectrum to visit at one time to hand out relief kits alongside the pantry.”
Slusser also believes that the food pantry’s mobile form lends itself well to present global conditions.
“When COVID-19 started to affect the communities on a larger scale with the state shutdown, we were concerned about the impact on the pantry. Food insecurity had already been an issue that was being faced in parts of our community and we were worried how the situation was going to be further compounded,” she said. “Feeding Tampa Bay did a phenomenal job transitioning the food pantry to a mobile pantry and we have been able to continue to be a site to provide that since April 2020. While it does not solve all of the food insecurities that an individual and/or family may experience during the month, it is an opportunity to ease the burden a little bit.”
Send your good news items to Megan Hussey, community reporter of The Hernando Sun.