POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — As consumers see food prices higher than normal at the grocery store, they are turning to local food banks and nonprofit organizations to help them get through this holiday season.
“The cost of food is much greater than it ever has been for all of us and that really impacts the families we serve the most,” said Thomas Mantz, President & CEO of Feeding Tampa Bay, which provides food to 10 Bay area counties.
Mantz said Feeding Tampa Bay is buying 25% more food to supplement the need and the food is more expensive to purchase.
“An organization like Feeding Tampa Bay, our operating costs are up 15-20%. We have 65 trucks on the roads every day delivering and picking up food. The gas costs are enormous,” said Mantz.
During the holidays, families are under more of a pinch.
“People might want to take a drive to see a family – that’s gas cost. People might want to buy their family Christmas presents because they love them, that’s increased costs. So there’s more pressure on a household budget this time of year,” said Mantz.
At the Shepherd Road Presbyterian Church, the amount of people who visit its food distribution site every Wednesday morning has continually grown over the last few years.
This Wednesday, the church provided food to 85 families and 305 individuals.
“They’re expressing concerns about being able to provide for their families, especially during the special days. So we try our best,” said Pastor Jeff Jacobs.
The price of Thanksgiving dinner is 20% higher than it was last year, due to inflation, avian influenza and supply chain disruptions from the war in Ukraine, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Church member and volunteer Nancy Craig said the church served at least 100 families last Christmas.
She expects more demand this year.
“I think it will be a lot busier. That’s why, because of the price of the food and everything,” she said. “One guy told me today – he said, ‘I am so blessed that you are here,’ because he doesn’t know what he’d do without it.”
The Shepherd Road Presbyterian Church will be handing out turkeys next Wednesday provided by Lighthouse Ministries to people who have filled out forms and provided a voucher.
Other donated turkeys will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Mantz said people can help by donating money to their local food bank, volunteering and spreading the word.
“Talk about this issue. If you see this story, make sure you have a conversation because I think, the more people understand that their friends and neighbors are hungry, the more people are willing to do about it,” he said.
To find food distribution sites and learn how you can help, visit https://feedingtampabay.org/.