By Libby Hopkins
Three million pounds of food was turned into six million meals served to over 200 agencies. Looking at those numbers, it’s easy to see that Tampa Bay Harvest does a remarkable job of helping those in need in the community. Tampa Bay Harvest is a 501 (c)(3) charitable organization that serves West Central Florida, including Pinellas and Hillsborough County. “We function as a food recovery and gleaning organization,” said Will Carey, the charity’s executive director.
Carey is a former chef and has over 20 years’ experience in hunger-related issues. Helping those in need has become his passion. He realized early on that his organization could only collect so many dry and canned goods to feed the hungry in the community. “People need to eat healthy food, so I started to do a lot of research on different gardening techniques,” Carey said. He hooked up with some “green people” as he called them from Tampa and they decided to plant a garden as a way of providing fruits and vegetables for the different organizations that benefited from Tampa Bay Harvest.
The first garden was a success and helped the organization provide healthier food options to the food banks they serve. Carey and his green friends collaborated with J.P. Morgan Chase to create The Sustainable Living Project, which is a garden and education center across the street from Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa. Different community organizations sponsor grow boxes, or mini raised gardens, to help grow food for those in need. “I am excited about this project because it is projected to be a 3-phase plan, with the next phase being aquaponics,” Carey said. “I will know how much funds I will be able to raise by the end of the year.”
Carey hopes he will continue to receive donations from the community to help reach his yearly operating budget of $50,000. So far the organization has raised $25,000. “I hope Tampa Bay Harvest keeps expanding in the gardening area, that’s my new push,” Carey said. “If we could get more corporate sponsors or faith-based organizations involved with the garden to help us, we can get the food to where it needs to go.”
To learn more about Tampa Bay Harvest and The Sustainable Living Project, visit its Website at www.tampabayharvest.org. To make a donation or sponsor a grow box, contact Carey at 727-538-7777. The Sustainable Living Project is located at 918 W. Sligh Ave. in Tampa.