By Bonnie Mentel

When Bay Life Church started Feed the Bay in 2006, the event was held in November. They soon discovered that this was a very popular time for people to give and that the local food pantries were already receiving a lot of holiday donations. There was no room at the organizations for the over 30,000 pounds of food that was being brought to them, and by spring all their holiday donations were gone. Feed the Bay began holding the food drive in the spring to help stock up the food pantries.

This year, Feed the Bay will be Sunday, April 17 from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. at various Publix locations throughout the area. A list of locations can be found at www.feedthebay.org. Close to 35 churches are expected to partner in the food drive, which will benefit 16 local food pantries.

“The food goes to Feed the Bay’s participating food agencies. When a church signs on and they partner to be a Feed the Bay church, they actually recommend a food agency that they support. So whether it’s ECHO, Women’s Resource Center, Metropolitan Ministries, Manna on Wheels, the church gives us a recommendation and we call them to ask if they want to be a participating food agency,” said Events Coordinator at Bay Life Church, Melanie Langston.

Church partners are provided with shopping lists and are assigned to a Publix located near their church. Each site will have a truck ready to collect donations. Publix provides trucks at five of their locations and Bay Life Church rents trucks for the other locations. All the trucks are decorated with Feed the Bay banners to promote the event.

“It’s time to go and be the church to the community. At Bay Life, we have a chant where we shout ‘Together we can do more.’ It’s like a big, high energy pep rally and then we send our shoppers out,” Langston said. She expects this year’s event to collect about 190,000 pounds of non-perishable items.

“Publix is amazing. Sometimes they bring certain items to the front of the store so the shoppers don’t need to go through everything. They also open all their registers from a certain time so people can get through the store,” Langston said.

When the shoppers are finished, the donations are loaded onto the Feed the Bay trucks in the parking lots. Some volunteers work as sorters to organize the food as it gets loaded. At 2:30 p.m., the trucks make their way to the agencies.

For more information, visit www.feedthebay.org. For further questions, contact 661-3696 or mlangston@baylife.org.