By Libby Hopkins
How does one community collect 180,908 lbs. of food and gift cards in one day and get it delivered to the organizations that need it? With a local event, started seven years ago called Feed The Bay, where churches, communities and local grocery stores work together to do something good.
One of the Feed The Bay Team Leaders, Debbie Weisemann, Community Outreach Minister at Bell Shoals Baptist Church, became involved in 2008 after the tragic death of Bell Shoals pastor, Forrest Pollock and his son Preston, 13, in a tragic plane crash. “All the churches in the area rallied around Bell Shoals to assist us in our time of grief,” Weisemann said,
“After building significant relationships during that time, it seemed like a natural thing to join forces to help bless those in need in our community through the love of Christ.”
So what is Feed The Bay? It is a coordinated community outreach uniting churches throughout Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Polk counties along with Publix and Sweet Bay Super Markets, designed to stock the shelves of local food pantries.
The next event is scheduled for Sunday, April 14. Participating churches will hand out wishlists and encourage attendees to shop at participating Publix and Sweet Bay stores to purchase items to restock local food pantries.
This year, organizers hope to collect 250,000 pounds of food.
“Over the past seven years, we have seen between 35-45 churches come together each year and we have helped restock the shelves of over fifteen agencies that serve those in need on a daily basis throughout our community,” Weisemann said. This year, it is anticipated that nearly 10,000 people will participate as either shoppers or volunteers.
Local food banks which benefit from Feed The Bay include Beth-El Ministry, Cynthia Pinckney, ECHO, Lighthouse Ministries, Good Samaritan, Manna on Wheels, Inc., Nativity, Metropolitan Ministries, and more.
For more information and to see a listing of all participating churches and organizations, visit www.feedthebay.org.