A balanced diet, including fruits and vegetables, is a healthy choice that is hard for some people to make due to cost and access. A mobile food pantry is helping Progress Village residents obtain fresh food for free.

Driving west along Bloomingdale Avenue in Valrico and Riverview is a streetside smorgasbord of seemingly unlimited food choices that range from convenience stores and fast-food franchises to major supermarket chains and specialty food stores, as well as a variety of restaurants.

As West Bloomingdale meets U.S. 301 and becomes Progress Boulevard, the food options become fewer in number of locations and variety of foods, with convenience stores and fast-food restaurants predominating.

In the neighborhood around the intersection at 78th Street, where Progress Boulevard becomes Madison Avenue, the challenge of having access to healthy food selections that include fresh ingredients is now being met by a visiting food market that arrives twice a month to distribute free fruits and vegetables to local residents, many of whom are senior citizens with limited mobility.

Called the Grow My Giving Mobile Fresh Market truck, the food pantry on wheels is scheduled to operate on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month through September from 4-5 p.m. at 4802 S. 79th St. in the heart of Progress Village.

It is a collaboration between Hillsborough County, Grow My Giving Inc. and Feeding Tampa Bay. Thomas Mantz is the Feeding Tampa Bay CEO, and he said providing food security to local residents is a goal worth coming together for.

“We believe that if you have access to the resources you need, everyone can thrive,” he stated.

Delivering food support to communities where residents face transportation issues as well as limited food-buying options is one way that Feeding Tampa Bay serves local residents. It is a distribution model that has become popular for similar organizations, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. You can learn more about Feeding Tampa Bay by visiting its website at https://feedingtampabay.org/, where a variety of information about nutrition and local support services is available.

Grow My Giving Inc. is a charitable organization which provides services that support homeless and hungry residents in a variety of ways, such as by partnering with other organizations like Feeding Tampa Bay and Hillsborough County to identify areas of need. You can learn more about Grow My Giving at www.growmygiving.org.

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Brad Stager
Avian-named publications have figured prominently in Brad Stager's career. Besides writing for the Osprey Observer, he started out writing sports articles for the Seahawk, a weekly newspaper serving the military community aboard Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan. That position followed a career documenting life in the Fleet, from the Straits of Magellan to the North Arabian Sea, as a Navy Photographer's Mate. Since settling in the Tampa Bay area, Brad has produced a variety of written, visual and aural content for clients ranging from corporate broadcasters to small businesses.