ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – The COVID-19 pandemic has left people across Tampa Bay out of work with some even struggling to feed their families.
St. Petersburg Free Clinic C.E.O Jennifer Yeagley says the number of people coming to the nonprofit’s food pantry has tripled in just a few months. “In February, our first pre-COVID month, we served 6000 individuals in our food bank and food pantry. In May, we served over 18,000 individuals,” said Yeagley.
The nonprofit surveyed people coming to the food pantry for help and learned around 70% had either lost their job, lost wages, or had been furloughed because of COVID-19. The survey also found that about half of the people the nonprofit are now serving have never been to a food bank before.
In a COVID-friendly drive thru, drop off event co-sponsored by Compass Land & Title, BB&T, YES-Homes Group of Keller Williams St. Pete Realty, and Outback Steakhouse, countless people came out to donate non-perishable food, hygiene items, baby care items, and other household products.
Organizers blocked off part of Central Avenue in Downtown St. Petersburg Sunday for the drive benefiting St. Petersburg Free Clinic.
“An event like this could help us to serve one day, two days, even three days out. When we are talking about serving about 1000 families a week, things like this can be very helpful in helping us make that happen and meet that goal week over week,” said Yeagley.
St. Petersburg resident and nursing student Ocean Levine dropped off a few items Sunday. She tells 8 On Your Side she has struggled with homelessness and food insecurity and knows how much of a difference these food pantries can make in someone’s life.
“The organizations that help people that may be in my situation, I am glad that they are there. I really am because they help people like me and I go and get the help,” said Levine.
She said she had a few extra items to spare from another local food bank, so she wanted to give back and say thanks.
“I decided to come out and share the little that I did have with anyone who may need it… I feel I would have been a disservice not to come and share with someone who has shared with me during the times that I was hungry,” said Levine.