Concerns about the potential spread of coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) has flattened the economy, causing many to seek out help for the first time to put food on their tables.
Here is a look at some efforts, to help feed others, across The Laker/Lutz News coverage area.
Collecting food to feed the hungry
The woman pulls up and pops open her trunk, so volunteers could gather the bags of food that she had brought to donate.
As they unloaded her donations, she became emotional — thanking the volunteers for what they are doing to help people struggling through the pandemic.
She was obviously touched by the effort.
Pasco County leaders have held food drives for the past two weekends to collect donations. The first drive was in the parking lot of the former Super Target store, off State Road 54, west of the Suncoast Expressway, and the second at Sam’s Club of Wesley Chapel, off State Road 56, in Wesley Chapel.
High-ranking officials from Pasco County Schools, the Pasco Tax Collector’s Office, the Pasco County Clerk & Comptroller’s Office, state legislators, and candidates for office, were there to help. Pasco Fire Rescue employees, Pasco Sheriff’s Office employees and others volunteered, too.
The community responded, bringing bags and boxes of food — loaded with pasta, peanut butter, jelly, crackers, soups, rice, canned goods and more.
Monetary donations are still welcome and can be made through the Pasco Education Foundation at PascoEducationFoundation.org. Checks can be made payable to Pasco Education Foundation and mailed to P.O. Box 1248, Land O’ Lakes, Florida, 34639.
When Pasco County Schools receives donated fruits or vegetables, it holds Farm Fresh Pop-ups, and the free fresh produce goes fast.
At its first Pop-Up, the district gave away more than 30,000 ears of corn in about 2 hours.
At its second one, on May 8, it handed out 10-pound variety boxes of vegetables containing such veggies as cucumbers, potatoes, radishes, collards, broccoli, peppers, squash, and eggplant.
Those were gone in 45 minutes.
At the pop-ups, which are held in different locations, school district officials are practicing safe social distancing and wearing masks.
Those picking up the free foods are asked to stay in their vehicles and to pop their trunks, so the food can be placed in their trunks.
Feeding Florida and L&M donated the variety boxes.
The district also continues to provide five breakfasts and five lunches, once a week, to students 18 and under, at specific locations. As of May, it had served more than 820,000 meals.
To find out more about the district’s meal program, and to keep abreast of future Farm Fresh Pop-Ups, check the district’s website, Pasco.k12.fl.us.
Outdoor dining allowed to expand
Pasco County officials are providing more flexibility to restaurants to expand their outdoor dining space by allowing them to set up tables in parking areas and other outdoor areas — without a county permit.
The move was made to give restaurant operators more options, as they contend with decreased business due to COVID-19.
Under phase one of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ reopening plan, restaurants were allowed to operate indoor dining rooms at 25% capacity and to have dining outdoors, with the proviso that tables be kept 6 feet apart from each other.
To help expand restaurant capacity, Tampa officials have closed streets in some areas, so restaurants could set up tables there.
In Pasco, officials allowed restaurateurs to expand outdoor dining on their own properties.
The expanded seating may be used during the restaurant’s normal business hours, and the allowance will expire when full-capacity indoor dining returns, according to a county news release.
The Box Kitchen Restaurant in Land O’ Lakes appeared to be one of the few restaurants within The Laker/Lutz coverage area taking advantage of the county’s relaxed rules.
Providing hot meals in hard times
Three initiatives in Pasco County are aimed at providing hot meals, while supporting restaurants at the same time.
In the “Dining Out at Home” program, Pasco County has partnered with the Area Agency on Aging to have restaurant meals delivered to eligible senior citizens.
In “Operation Feed Pasco,” local restaurants are helping to supply meals at local food pantries and soup kitchens. The county is partnering with United Way of Pasco County on that effort.
Restaurants that would like to participate in Operation Feed Pasco should call United Way at (727) 359-7999, to see if there are any slots left.
In Pasco FLAG2020, meals are being purchased from local restaurants and then provided to people working on the front lines of the pandemic.
The program is being championed by Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey, who was inspired after seeing coverage of two women in New Jersey who launched the national program.
So far, 64 meals have been delivered through that program to AdventHealth Dade City, 41 have been delivered to BayCare’s North Bay Hospital in New Port Richey and 106 meals to Medical Center of Trinity.
In addition to Starkey, other local elected leaders who have been involved in raising money, include Pasco County Commissioner Ron Oakley, Pasco County Schools Superintendent Kurt Browning, Pasco County School Board member Allen Altman, former Pasco Clerk & Comptroller Paula O’Neil and State Rep. Ardian Zika.
To help, send donations to:
Venmo: @FLAG2020Pasco; PayPal: PayPal.me/FLAG2020Pasco
Published May 13, 2020