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New Food Distribution Model For Pantries Throughout Manatee County

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MANATEE COUNTY, FL (WWSB) - Here on the Suncoast nearly 50,000 people in Manatee County don't always know where their next meal is coming from.

While the Food Bank of Manatee County used to supply groceries to local pantries, another group, Feeding Tampa Bay, is changing the way food is distributed.

"The folks walk through that door and they come to this table to get this food and this food supply is no longer reliable in my opinion," Said Gene Tischer, who is a board member for Stillpoint Mission.

Stillpoint Mission is one of the pantries in Manatee County affected by the change.

Under Feeding Tampa Bay's new guidelines, pantries can pick up food directly from the agency's warehouse, they can pay a fee to have it delivered, or they can go to an assigned store for donations.

Tischer said the last option is no longer reliable, with just 20-percent of the food he picked up Monday being usable.

"You never know what you're going to get at the store. Food Bank of Manatee used to go out, get all of that food and bring it back to the warehouse and pack it up so we knew exactly what we were going to get each time we went to Food Bank of Manatee, just the stuff we needed for our clients," Tischer said.

However, Feeding Tampa Bay said this model has worked in places such as Pasco and Polk County.

"We've seen more food get increased into the county, we've been able to enable agencies to pick up directly from stores which allows them to build that relationship locally and we keep that food in the county as well," Said Rhonda Gindlesperger, who is the Director of Agency Relations and Programs at Feeding Tampa Bay.

And while a relationship is being built locally with stores, Tischer said more manual labor is involved than before, which is hard because most volunteers he said are older.

"Yesterday at Walmart I was in an alley loading these boxes, some of which weighed 50 pounds, over the four foot high pick up truck and dropping it over the bed of my pick up truck, I have to load all by myself," Tischer said.

Stillpoint Mission said they hope that the Food Bank of Manatee County will be reinstated as their primary source.

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