Our Lady’s Pantry is a small food pantry in Wimauma with a big heart and hundreds of clients. Volunteers distributed a stunning 1,800,000 pounds of food this past year.
“We are especially indebted to our drivers, as well as a number of key volunteers, who manage the perishable and nonperishable foods once our trucks return from all over the county,” said Tom Bullaro, who is co-director of Our Lady’s Pantry with his wife, Anita.
“Karen and Kim, for example, organize the sorting of the nonperishable food along with a dozen or more volunteers when food comes in,” Bullaro explained. “This is more complicated than one would imagine.”
“Feeding Tampa Bay gives us rules for accepting store donations, all of which must be weighed. We get donations from Costco, Sam’s, Publix, Aldi’s, Sprouts, Big Lots and Dollar General. We either weigh the food on our pallet or on a smaller box scale,” explained Karen.
“But we can’t simply log the weight,” said Kim. “We need to record donations by category. So, after we have the overall weight from a given vendor, we must divide the boxes into three categories: meat, bread or produce. We place these boxes on a smaller scale, by category, so we can record precisely how many pounds of meat, bread or produce we receive from each vendor. We log these weights into the computer so stores can get tax credit for the donations.”
Karen and Kim are vigilant about food safety as well. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) directs Kim to date every USDA carton as it rolls off the truck. Each one must be used within 60 days.
Karen manages all non-USDA foods and goes by the dates provided by Feeding Tampa Bay for food safety. Specific rules detail how long food is safe beyond the “best used by” date. Karen and helpers check every donation received to ensure that each item given to the clients is safe.
“Karen and Kim are busy almost every day of the week with some task or another,” said Bullaro. “Kim schedules our drivers and manages pickups at different markets, and Karen trains our new volunteers and orders our food from Feeding Tampa Bay. And they both manage the distribution of foods on Saturday mornings.”
Volunteers are the key to the success of the pantry, and there is always a need for more assistance. To learn more about Our Lady’s Pantry, please visit www.ourladyspantry.com.