By Jeff Odom
While summer months are typically slow for Feeding America Tampa Bay, this year has been like no other in the worst of ways.
Supply shelves inside the Suncoast distribution branch, 5829 Ehren Cutoff in Land O’ Lakes, are almost bare.
Only condiments and drinks fill the spaces behind the vacant produce and canned meal racks, which worries Kathy Mullen, who is the branch coordinator with the organization’s Suncoast Branch.
“This is the worst I’ve ever seen it,” said Mullen, who has been with the food bank since 1996. “Right now, we are having to spend a lot of funding that should be handling other aspects of our job description and funneling that into trying to find food that’s available through other means.”
Mullen said the continuous economic struggles and severe drought conditions in much of the country are key factors in the lack of supply in Feeding America’s collection and distribution centers. The organization, which feeds more than 500,000 people in 10 Florida counties, is looking to local businesses and clubs to help fill the hole.
“Basically, the food just isn’t here in the country,” Mullen said. “We have increased impact in need and decreased availability of food. What we’re looking for is folks out in our community who will adopt months and drive food drives for us, starting June through October, because come November and December we do get a lot of help from the community. However, it will get bad again in January. … We want a constant flow of food in the food banks.”
Items that Feeding America needs the most are shelf-stable foods, such as meaty canned soups, tuna fish, pasta, nuts, peanut butter and canned fruits and vegetables.
Mullen hopes the community can put together food drives. She said a one dollar donation can go as far as five meals.
“I look forward to the phone ringing,” Mullen said. “We don’t need any kind of liquid or drinks or anything to that affect. We need food.”
For more information on Feeding America’s Suncoast Branch, call (813) 929-0200. To find other distribution centers and how to help, visit www.feedingamericatampabay.org.