Tampa, FL (PressExposure) July 13, 2009 -- Americaâs Second Harvest of Tampa Bay (http://www.a2htampabay.org), a non-profit Food Bank, delivers food to 35,000 hungry people living in the Tampa Bay area every week. Almost a quarter of those people are children and more than a third of those people had to between buying food or paying their mortgage or utilities bills.
According to Willene Hayward, Volunteer Manager at Americaâs Second Harvest, they supply almost 10 million meals per year. The food gets picked up from their 50,000 sq ft warehouse in Tampa and distributed by over 300 churches and incorporated non-profit agencies like St. Vincent de Paul Society, Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Tampa Bay AIDS Network, Salvation Army Adult Rehab, and Metropolitan Ministries.
âI think we were put here to help each other. I like helping people,â said Willene, who has recently celebrated her 11th year at Americaâs Second Harvest of Tampa Bay. âLots of people think of the holidays as the time to come out and help, but hunger is 365 days a year. Thatâs when we need you. Not just on the holidays,â concludes Willene.
40,000 families in Tampa and its surrounding communities do not have enough food to eat on a daily basis. Over 8 percent of households in Pinellas County, and 9 percent of households in Pasco County are in this same unhappy condition.
It may come as a surprise to some that only 12 percent of those who receive food from the Americaâs Second Harvest Food Bank are homeless. So, while there are those who are so destitute they actually sleep on the street, an overwhelming 88 percent of those hungry mouths could be the children who are class with your sons and daughters, may be seated near you in church, or may be that very average looking person you passed walking down the street.
There is no way this could all be managed by the 20 employees at Americaâs Second Harvest Food Bank without the goodwill of the many donors and volunteers, according to Willene. Not a cent of government money is spent to support the operation.
There are large food processors who donate food. Like Tropicana who donated over 3,600 cartons of juice or the United Egg Producers who donated 122,000 dozen eggs this Easter for the second year.
A lot of the food donations are overstocked or cosmetically damaged items that are salvaged from supermarket reclamation centers. There is nothing wrong with the food, but maybe there is a dent in the can so it canât be sold. Or maybe the item is past the âBEST USED BYâ¦â date but it is still good for some weeks yet. Expiration dates are carefully screened by volunteers at the Food Bank to ensure the food quality is still good and the food is safe before it is distributed.
âThis food would all go into a landfill if it didnât go into the Food Bank,â said Mark Sutherland, Resources Development Manager of Americaâs Second Harvest of Tampa Bay.
Additionally, every month, there is an average of 500 local volunteers who help out at the Food Bank. These volunteers come from a variety of areas such as employees from companies like Sykes, Auto Trader and New York Life. Individuals sentenced by the Courts to do community work can volunteer at the Food Bank. Food stamp recipients are required to put in a certain number of volunteer hours at the Food Bank in order to be eligible for the food stamp program. And churches and schools participate, such as the Clearwater based Washburn Academy who sends their students to help out as part of the Volunteer Ministers Program of the Church of Scientology (www.volunteerministers.org).
âI love doing it because I am helping the community,â said 16 yr old Bryant Guzman, a senior at Washburn Academy, who was sorting through enormous bins of canned food, weeding out those products beyond the expiration.
Neil Washburn, a teacher at the Academy and son of the founder, explained they have the students participate with the Volunteer Ministers at the Food Bank as it gets them thinking about the community.
âWe want to teach our students that you canât complain about things when you arenât doing something about them. They are members of the community and that means they are responsible for it. If there is a problem, it is their problem,â Washburn said. âWe want them to learn that there is something they can do about it.â
Jesuit High School and Berkley Prep School also send students to volunteer at the Food Bank. Members of the Grace Family Church can be found there once a month.