With many people still out of work, some are turning to local food pantries to help put dinner on the table, leaving the pantries looking for extra support.
The increased need has pantries seeking additional supplies such as nonperishable canned and boxed goods, pet food, paper goods and personal toiletries. Though some food pantry needs are satiated for now, shelves never stay full long.
While there is usually an increased need in the summertime because children are out of school, COVID-19 has caused that need to spike even more, said Don Huggins, coordinator of Wildwood Food Pantry, a ministry of Wildwood United Methodist Church.
“The pantry has seen about a 15% to 20% increase in people using our services,” the Village of Glenbrook resident said. “It’s only going to get worse before it gets better, as families who are out of work from the initial stay-at-home order find themselves in need of food, but we are here to help.”
Huggins said they still have been receiving donations, but they are always in need of canned and boxed goods.
“We have gone through quite a bit of canned and boxed goods, especially as we are in an area that has a lot of poverty,” he said. “We are thankful for all the donations we have received.”
Colleen Brooks, director of Beyond the Walls Food Pantry, a ministry of Heritage Community Church in Fruitland Park, said they are doing their best to continue helping the community.
“The pantry is seeing an abundance of people as we are helping feed students out of school and those in dire need of food and supplies,” she said. “Several groups have come by and donated food, but it doesn’t stay on the shelves for long.”
Fred Harrop, president of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, a ministry of St. Timothy Roman Catholic Church in Lady Lake, said the only thing the pantry currently needs is monetary donations.
“We are pretty well stocked at the moment, but that could always change,” the Village of Belle Aire resident said. “Right now, we just need some help paying the bill we receive from Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. They provide us with items that are not donated, including fresh produce and milk.”
Carrol Neal, director of Christian Food Pantry of Lady Lake, a ministry of North Lake Presbyterian Church, said they are helping more people than usual, especially with their pet ministry.
“We know (with) a lot of people that when money gets tight, their pets are the first to go,” said Neal, of the Village of Mallory Square. “We are helping them by providing not only food for the family, but also food and supplies for their pets.”
The pantry is currently asking for pet food and supplies, boxed goods including macaroni and cheese, pancake mix and cake mix, dry or canned beans, canned vegetables and canned tuna and paper goods such as toilet paper.
Mary Ann Gricar, assistant director of social services for St. Theresa Catholic Church in Belleview, said its food pantry has struggled to keep shelves full.
“We were in dire need and then groups from The Villages donated food to us,” she said. “They brought us much needed canned and boxed goods, vegetables, pet food and paper goods, and it was like a godsend because shelves were really running low.”
Before making a donation, check with individual pantries for their specific needs and hours.
Staff Writer Andrea Davis can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5374, or firstname.lastname@example.org.