Food Bank of Manatee loses USDA contract, vows to continue serving community

USDA Ends Deal with Food Bank of Manatee County

BRADENTON, Fla. (WWSB) -There has been a major change on how the Food Bank of Manatee operates and distributes food. Meals on Wheels Plus was recently notified its USDA contract was awarded to Feeding Tampa Bay.

Right now there are pounds and pounds of USDA food left on shelves inside the Food Bank of Manatee, a place where local food pantries come to get their supplies. But starting October 1, the Food Bank of Manatee can no longer distribute the food. It is the responsibility of Feeding Tampa Bay.

“About half of our food has come through this USDA contract. We are very concerned about not having our food stationary in a local warehouse,” says the food bank’s President and CEO Maribeth Phillips.

This now will greatly impact how Manatee County’s local food pantries will get USDA food.

“People in our community do not know that the Food Bank of Manatee is the foundation of the food bank pantries that are feeding the people in our community," says Ginger Robertson of the Community of Christ Food Pantry.

About three million pounds of food that had previously been sent to and distributed by the Food Bank of Manatee will now be managed by an agency based outside of Manatee County, something local food pantries say they aren’t too happy about.

“It’s not just an inconvenience, it’s just not going to work," says Sue Philbrick of St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church.

She says she wished Feeding Tampa Bay would have taken the time to get to know more about her pantry and the people she serves.

Philbrick says she can walk in and out of the Food Bank of Manatee anytime to feed her more than 200 families whereas Feeding Tampa Bay will send food to her maybe once a week. She says that isn’t enough.

“If I’m building five different homes and their business plan is to buy the same amount of lumber for each home no matter how it’s designed, you’re going to fail and not have enough wood, or enough food in my case," Philbrick argued.

There are a total of 99 pantries and agencies the Food Bank of Manatee helps throughout the county. Meals on Wheels Plus plans to continue operating the Food Bank of Manatee and its unique programs. It is dedicated to meeting the needs of their local community.

They are now relying on the community to step up and provide donations of food and funds. You can do so here.

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