Feed The Bay takes place on Saturday, March 24 and Sunday, March 25. With more than 30 local churches participating, Feed The Bay hopes to restock the shelves of area food pantries

More than 40,000 families in the Tampa Bay area will go to bed hungry tonight. Many of these families depend on the local food banks for help, but the sad truth is that often the food bank shelves are empty too.

Following the Biblical mandate to feed the hungry, Feed The Bay will spring into action on Saturday, March 24 and Sunday, March 25, when more than 30 churches join together in a coordinated mission to re-stock the shelves of local food banks. The goal is to collect 200,000 lbs. of food.

Feed The Bay began in 2006 out of the Bay Life Church in Brandon. The plan was simple enough: the congregation went grocery shopping after church the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Everyone had printed lists of grocery items that were greatly needed to restock the food bank shelves for the holidays.

Several large trucks parked outside the grocery stores as collection sites. People were amazed to see all the grocery carts filling the trucks with the food. Children helped their parents unload the items. Other’s looked on in astonishment as literally tons of food filled the trucks. At the end of the day, more than 30,000 lbs. of food was collected and delivered to local charitable organizations to re-stock their shelves.

As word spread of that incredible event, other churches wanted to help. Each year, the Feed The Bay event grows bigger and has now become a much-anticipated event. In 2011, there were 33 local churches and 11 food agencies that collected 129,193 lbs. of food and more than $9,000 in store gift cards.

Since its humble beginnings in 2006, Feed The Bay has collected more than 815,900 lbs. of food that has supplemented community food agencies throughout the county.

 “We are 190,000 lbs. from reaching 1 million lbs. of food,” said Debbie Weisemann, Feed The Bay coordinator.

On the specified days, participants are encouraged to shop at participating Publix and Sweetbay parking lots, armed with their Feed The Bay grocery list. These stores will be stocked with the needed items. After shopping, volunteers will be standing by at trucks located in each of the parking lots of the participating stores.

Jeff Cofer, from South Shore United Methodist Church, has been volunteering for Feed The Bay for three years. “The many planning sessions and the event itself brought me closer to different churches and different ideas. It helped me grow as a Christian because instead of dwelling on points we disagreed on we all worked towards a common goal,” said Cofer. “It made me feel good about simply being good!”

For dedicated couponers, TrueCouponing is partnering with Feed The Bay to help use coupon methods to gather more food now and spend less later. If you are interested in couponing for the event, visit www.truecouponing.com
If you are interested in participating or volunteering for Feed The Bay, visit www.FeedtheBay.org.

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Kelly Wise Valdes
Kelly Wise Valdes has been writing for the Osprey Observer since 2008. She graduated in 1989 from Florida Southern College with a B.S. in Communications and enjoys writing and traveling. She currently resides in northern Hillsborough County with her husband, David. When not traveling and writing, Kelly and her husband enjoy spending time with their five grown children (as well as their grandchildren) that still keep them very busy.