Feeding Tampa Bay’s goal is to have Tampa Bay hunger-free by 2025.

The recent COVID-19 pandemic has weakened our local economy and this has caused many people from our community to become unemployed. Feeding Tampa Bay (FTB) has been at the forefront of feeding those who are food insecure in the Tampa Bay community even before the pandemic hit and it has continued to help those in need since then.

The goal is to have Tampa Bay hunger-free by 2025. One way the group is achieving this goal is by hosting Mega Pantries in the Tampa Bay area.

“While the reopening of our state is on the horizon, the effects of COVID-19 are far from over,” said FTB’s external affairs officer, Shannon Hannon Oliviero. “This crisis has nearly doubled the unemployment rate in Florida and placed over 1.7 million food insecure individuals in our care. To meet this increased need for food assistance, we have created Mega Pantry distributions.”

Mega Pantries are equipped to serve over 3,500 families at a time with 175,000 pounds of food, which is 22 times larger than their typical Mobile Pantry distributions.

“Due to distributing nearly 60 million meals since the pandemic began, Feeding Tampa Bay has now expanded our Mega Pantry program from six drive-through locations to 10 to better serve those who continue to struggle with food insecurity,” Oliviero said. “With that in mind, the team at FTB has launched and is testing a new text program, FTBFYI, to better connect with those in our care.”

Feeding Tampa Bay’s communications team is attending Mega Pantries and personally introducing those it serves to the pilot program that will be shared with them in both English and Spanish.

“Updates will include a peek into FTB culture that relates to those that we serve, recipes that support grocery distribution, additional food availability and resources to help bring comfort in these challenges times and any changes in scheduling that may occur,” Oliviero said. “We have stood side by side with those that we serve all along, but now more than ever we are committed to connect in a more meaningful way as we all adjust to what the pandemic has created as our new normal.”

To learn more about FTB’s Mega Pantries, visit www.feedingtampabay.org. FTB hosts a Mega Pantry in Brandon on Thursdays from 4-6:30 p.m. at 10451 Nancy Watkins Dr. in the parking lot next to softball field on E. Columbus Dr.

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Libby is a writer for The Osprey Observer/The Christian Voice. She started as an intern in 2009 and upon finishing her internship, she was asked to stay on as a permanent writer for both papers. Libby lives in Brandon with her two rescue dogs, Olive and Bogey.