POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – As Americans continue to stockpile and empty shelves at their local grocery stores, it’s leaving non-profit organizations unable to provide food for the hungry.

“I am pleading to our community to step up,” said Patty Strickland, executive director of KidsPACK, Inc.

KidsPACK provides meals for 1,800 food insecure and homeless children in Polk County.

The organization works with Polk County Public Schools to send six meals home with the children on Friday. Otherwise, they may not have food to eat through the weekend.

The program continues even as school is closed.

Packaging up that much food requires bulk orders from grocery chains. And right now, that supply chain is broken.

“We are unable to continue to order,” said Strickland. “We’ve gone through U.S. Food. We’ve gone through Sysco. We’ve gone through Sam’s. We’ve gone through Publix. Basically what they’re saying is the quantity that you need is not available to you.”

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, demand is too high in the stores.

Strickland told 8 On Your Side’s Staci DaSilva, there is a ripple effect because many local organizations work together to feed people in the community.

“Problem is right now none of us have food to give. I had a call from Faith In Action (Wednesday) wanting peanut butter to give to her 108 seniors that are homebound. I said, no, and it broke my heart because I need it for my children,” Strickland said.

Strickland thinks she has enough food for, at most, two more weeks.

“We know at this point the solution is not buying power. The solution is our community stepping forward,” she said.

Already, some people in the community have stepped up.

“Everybody needs help and it’s my way of being able to help,” said Adriana Mellas.

Mellas operates “Drica’s Favorites,” a specialty coffee boutique and food truck.

She’s offering free guava cookies or Brazilian cheese bread to customers who bring a donation for KidsPACK.

Strickland showing off items donated by Drica’s

“I love feeding people. I can’t feed them all, so I have my tribe helping to feed them,” she said.

Donations can be dropped off at the KidsPACK site in Lakeland.

This is a list of items KidsPACK needs:

  • Chef Boyardee 7.5 oz Microwaveable Bowls
  • Beef Ravioli
  • Beefaroni
  • Mac and Cheese
  • Spaghetti and Meatballs
  • ABC123 – Spaghetti O’s – Chicken and Rice
  • 4 oz. Applesauce, Mixed Fruit or Mandarin Oranges
  • Pop Tarts

KidsPACK needs non-perishable items that kids can easily open and are manufacturer-sealed. It is preferred that the items be individually sized.

If you’d like to help, you can contact KidsPACK at 863-272-7927.