By MEGAN HUSSEY
Since the dawn of the global pandemic, Metropolitan Ministries has delivered nearly 40,000 emergency nonperishable food boxes to Tampa Bay families in need--including many located in Hernando County. That’s an average of 1,500 boxes per week. And Metropolitan Ministries currently cooks 3,000 hot grab-and-go meals every day and distributes them throughout Tampa Bay through 30 partner organizations. Yet now, the agency that has lent a helping hand for nearly 50 years needs many more 'helping hands' to fulfill their current mission
On a typical day, 125 volunteer shifts might go unfilled at Metropolitan Ministries, where staff members are devoting their own time to the duty of meal delivery.
"We keep going," said Justine Burke, Metropolitan Ministries, Vice President of Marketing. "We are serving six times more families than we usually do this time of year. We're helping people who are having trouble keeping food on the table during these times."
The agency's food delivery service is restricted to those who are homebound and demonstrate a need. Others register to pick up meal boxes at Metropolitan Ministries.
"We often deliver to seniors living alone," said Burke. "They are on a fixed income and are afraid to go out. Or they and others may have no transportation."
Metropolitan's limited delivery service (which includes Hernando) requires a great deal in the way of volunteer aid--as does the boxing of the meals at Metropolitan facilities in Tampa and Holiday. Each Metropolitan food box contains enough fresh produce, fruits and vegetables, pastas, vegetables, beans, and other foods to make 36 meals, plus needed hygiene products.
Yet largely due to concerns regarding COVID-19, the agency has witnessed a dramatic decrease in its once substantial volunteer core.
"For the first time ever, Metropolitan Ministries sees a 60% drop in volunteers," read a related news release.
Volunteers are needed in Metropolitan Ministries’ off-site warehouse to build food boxes,
with additional needs on the Tampa and Holiday campuses coming up as well as for the upcoming holiday season.
"During the holidays, we generally serve 26,000 families in Tampa Bay. This year, we anticipate serving as many as 40,000," said Burke, "With at least 1,000 families living in Hernando County."
Metropolitan Ministries has modified its volunteer experience in accordance with the CDC’s guidelines. Temperature checks and face masks are required, and social distancing guidelines are reinforced.
"People are spread out, and a lot of work is done in a spacious warehouse or outside the warehouse," said Burke.
Deliveries are conducted in a no-contact fashion; and even in this format, Burke says that Metropolitan volunteers still find themselves on the receiving end of a great deal of love and gratitude.
"The people we serve are so grateful," said Burke. "They thank us and say, 'We don't know what we'd do without you.' Even if they just look out through the window, you can see the smile in their eyes."
To put the smile into the eyes of Tampa Bay residents in need, including those located right here in Hernando County, register to volunteer at https://www.metromin.org/registration/pasco/. Metropolitan Ministries’ main campus is located at 2002 N. Florida Ave., Tampa, FL 33602, and the Pasco campus is located at 3214 US HWY 19, Holiday, FL 34691. Visit www.MetroMin.org. To donate food or toys, visit
“The scope of need is unprecedented," said Tim Marks, Metropolitan Ministries' president and CEO. “We’ve been so fortunate to have the communities’ support, and I have faith that we’ll rally together once again to meet this challenge.”