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Food Pantries Brace For Another Influx As Coronavirus Benefits End, Hurricane Season Picks Up

Feeding Tampa Bay volunteers distribute food boxes at a mega pantry drive-thru at Crossover Church on Fowler Avenue in Tampa.
Feeding Tampa Bay volunteers distribute food boxes at a mega pantry drive-thru at Crossover Church on Fowler Avenue in Tampa.

As coronavirus unemployment benefits come to an end - and as hurricane season picks up - Florida food pantries are bracing for another influx of people in need.

Feeding Tampa Bay, the food pantry for 10 counties in the greater Tampa Bay region and beyond, has more than doubled the number of people it provids meals to, in large part because of the coronavirus pandemic, said the organization's spokeswoman Shannon Hannon-Oliviero.

"There's never been a face on hunger, but people assumed what hunger looked like," Hannon-Oliviero said. "And now it's anyone from an individual, to a family, to neighbor, to people leaning in and helping those neighbors that can't get out of their own home and coming out and getting food for them."

RELATED: Where To Get Food When You Cannot Get It Yourself: Food Banks And Pantries Across Tampa Bay

Over the past month the organization has started six weekly mega drive-thru pantries to meet the need, serving nearly 10,000 families each week.

It has also increased mobile food distributions to 150 per month to help fill the gap across the ten counties it serves.

Hannon-Oliviero said the need has never been greater.

"Before the pandemic, we saw about 650,000 in our care. And now we see, because of course, unemployment and people seeing challenges of course about 1.7 million who need us,” Hannon-Oliviero said.

So that's an incredible need out there."

She said donations typically received during a crisis are slowing as grocery stores struggle to keep shelves stocked, so Feeding Tampa Bay is asking for cash donations.

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