Nearly 20 percent of Tampa Bay area residents go to bed wondering where their next meal will come from. About 30 percent of children struggle with hunger.
Those figures come from Feeding America Tampa Bay, a regional food bank that supplies more than 700 agencies throughout West Central Florida with the food their clients need to survive.
According to Debbi McCarthy, director of development for Feeding America Tampa Bay, the agency serves about 700,000 people in poverty in Pinellas, Pasco, Hillsborough, Hernando, Polk, Citrus, Sumter, Hardee, Highlands and Manatee counties.
“Florida is ranked fourth in the nation for family hunger in households containing at least one child,” McCarthy said.
In Clearwater, where Feeding America works with local agencies including , Pastor Donna Oberkreser said needs beyond food have escalated in her 10 years of local ministry as the economy has faltered.
"Needs have gone from 'I need gas in my car' to 'I need bus tickets'," Oberkreser said. "'I need help with my rent' has become 'I need a couple of nights in a hotel'."
With summer just around the corner, the need for support is growing even stronger, McCarthy said.
“Summer is a particularly difficult time for food insecure children, who have no access to the federally funded school meals,” McCarthy said. “Heartbreakingly, many children face a long, hot, hungry summer.”
You Can Make a Difference
That’s exactly why Clearwater Patch is kicking off the Give-A-Ton Food Drive. It’s our aim to collect a ton of food for Feeding America Tampa Bay to help take a bite out of hunger during the difficult summer months.
To help make sure our neighbors don’t face a long, hot, hungry summer, we’re partnering with our 18 sister Patch sites throughout Tampa Bay and businesses right here in Clearwater to collect nonperishable food items. Feeding America Tampa Bay will in turn distribute our collections through its partner agencies to people in need.
Starting today, these businesses will be collecting food during their normal hours to help us meet or exceed our goal of 2,000 pounds of food:
- , 701 Cleveland St.
- , 5300 East Bay Drive
- , 29399 U.S. 19 N., Suite 370
- , 423 Poinsettia Ave.
So, how far will a ton of food go?
“Two thousand pounds of food provides 1,600 meals,” McCarthy said. “We like to think of ‘missing meals’ for families when doing hunger math. One ton of food can gather 400 families of four around the table for a shared dinner. That’s a vision Patch readers can share with us and take pride in.”
To get involved in the Give-A-Ton Food Drive, just drop off nonperishable food items at one of our partner businesses above. Feeding America's most-needed items include:
- Canned meats (tuna, chicken, ham, sausage)
- Canned fruits and vegetables
- Canned and boxed meals (soup, chili, stew, macaroni & cheese)
- Canned or dried beans (black, pinto, kidney, lentils)
- Cereal (low sugar, high fiber)
- Cereal and fruit bars
- Peanut butter
- Dry milk
- Paper goods (plates, paper towels)
- Personal products (deodorant, soap)
Feeding America cannot accept glass or perishable items.
You can also make a financial contribution to the drive directly on Feeding America Tampa Bay’s website. Just go to the donation page and look for the Give-A-Ton Food Drive option.
"Our greatest need is always funding," McCarthy said. "With the purchasing power we have through Feeding America national, we can stretch a dollar farther than anyone else. For every dollar donated, we can provide four meals."
Thank you in advance for your help! Together we can make a real difference for our neighbors who face hunger every day.