Here is a tribute to all the hunger heroes who went above and beyond the call of duty for Feeding Tampa Bay when our community needed it most. We sincerely appreciate the kindness and generosity put forth by the various individuals and companies who helped to uplift our neighbors in a time of struggle.
These individuals were struck with empathy in the face of Irma and sprung into action to help their neighbors.
Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. This 7 year old hunger hero saw the destruction caused by Irma and decided to act. A fan of peanut butter, he put together a peanut butter drive with the help of his friends at the Cheesecake Factory so those in need of a meal could have protein to eat. Even though he faces challenges of his own, his concern for others pushed forth.
Sandy lives off the grid in Arizona, making her uniquely equipped to offer advice to individuals living without power. After hearing a Category 5 storm would hit the entire state of Florida, she made the immediate decision to drive across the country to help in any way she could. Sandy spent the week volunteering with Feeding Tampa Bay to help push out meals to our community in need. Special heroes like Sandy push away fear and run straight towards emergency situations to lend a helping hand.
Friend of the food bank, Lisa Ross, came to the rescue when our community needed it most. Although Feeding Tampa Bay sits on 50,000 sq ft of warehouse space, it was not enough room to support the truckloads of food being sent our way post-Irma. Lisa, a real estate agent at Avison Young, helped us to secure a 35,000 sq ft area to store our food, along with a donated warehouse space from our landlords at Transport Drive to use while we have this surplus of food. It is because of this extra space that we are able to hold multiple relief distributions per day.
Kindness and compassion know no distance. Multiple groups of individuals drove hundreds of miles to donate trucks full of supplies for Irma relief.
Lucy began her drive right after she saw coverage on TV of the devastation Irma caused to much of Florida. She knew she could only watch for so long before she had to take action. Lucy loaded up her truck with canned goods, water, household supplies, chainsaws, and a generator and drove to various food banks in Florida dropping off supplies along the way.
Jenn and Rachel, Charlotte, NC
Living in North Carolina, Jenn and Rachel feared a turn up the coast from Irma and began gathering supplies to prepare for potential landfall from Irma. After viewing the coverage of Irma’s aftermath in Florida and deciding their supplies could be better used elsewhere, they decided to load their food truck Roaming Fork with food and water and drive it down to Feeding Tampa Bay to distribute to those in need. When asked what prompted their actions, they responded “Florida needed us.”
Alex and Lawrence, Burlington, NC
Friends and business partners Alex and Lawrence decided to host a food and supply drive for Irma victims after watching the Hand in Hand telethon for Hurricane victims one night. After a week of collecting donations, they drove down two 26 ft trucks full of water, canned goods, non-perishable items, diapers, and formula to Tampa.
Whether these organizations saw a need to offer volunteer time, services, or food and supplies, they jumped in to help support our community.
St. Pete Police Department
Law enforcement officers protect and serve our community. Without hesitation, the St. Pete PD reached out to Feeding Tampa Bay to find out how they could assist in relief efforts in the weeks following Irma. In finding out that we were short on personnel, the officers volunteered at 5 of our distributions in Pinellas County. They helped distribute bags of food, carry items to client’s cars or homes, and spread positivity in a stressful time.
Stepps Towing Services
While Feeding Tampa Bay has a number of trucks in its fleet, our service area covers 10 counties and could always use additional support in terms of capacity and distribution. Stepps Towing Services came to the rescue and offered Feeding Tampa Bay one of their trucks and one of their drivers for 2 weeks to assist with relief efforts.
At Feeding Tampa Bay, we feed people, but our friends at Dunkin’ Donuts thought they would feed us! Dunkin’ Donuts brought a coffee bar and donuts to our warehouse on 2 separate mornings to help our employees, volunteers, and agency partners reenergize and refuel. As most of us were “running on empty” it was a sweet addition to our week!
Tampa Bay Rays
In the aftermath of Irma, the Tampa Bay Rays took notice of those affected by the storm in our community and decided to take action. What was supposed to be a one day event featuring Feeding Tampa Bay at Rays Up night combined with a food drive, turned into a 5 day affair. The Rays held an emergency relief distribution at Tropicana Field, donated 1 million meals to Feeding Tampa Bay at Rays Up night, hosted a 3-day food and supply drive for Irma relief, and spent a day volunteering at our warehouse.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sports tend to bring the community together and create an atmosphere of support. In the aftermath of Irma, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers came out to support the community that typically supports them. Bucs employees joined us for a distribution at Jordan Park, packing and distributing relief bags to our neighbors in need. At another distribution, quarterback Jameis Winston distributed $25 Publix gift cards to 500 individuals and served our clients on the front line. Winston built a team of youths from the line and involved them in packing the relief bags, creating a sense of community and togetherness at the site.
If you tried to visit your local supermarket during Irma prep, then you know most shelves were bare. Limitations on resources and power left store shelves bare for days following the storm. As a food bank, and first responder in emergency situations, Feeding Tampa Bay called on our food donor partners for help in the wake of Irma.
After reaching out to Publix to find out if they had food available to donate or bags to package food in, the organization teamed together to provide Feeding Tampa Bay with both on short notice. One store manager donated a pallets-worth of canned goods from his store, loading them in the bed of a pick-up truck, and hand-staking them onto a pallet in our warehouse. Another manager rushed to find 30,000 bags to donate to Feeding Tampa Bay, and hand-delivered them to us days before the storm so that we could pack emergency relief bags and deliver them to clients as quickly as possible.
As you may have seen on social media, Feeding Tampa Bay lost power during the storm, and remained without power for several days following the storm. Needless to say, our cooler product had spoiled and we had no fruits or vegetables to distribute. Del Monte got word of this and donated several trailer loads of bananas to us, in hopes of providing enough fruit for the first few days of emergency relief community distributions.
Hoping to replenish the shelves of our families in need, Kellogg’s donated 4 trailers full of snacks to Feeding Tampa Bay and shipped the product across the country to our warehouse.
Our partners at WalMart wanted to ensure that Feeding Tampa Bay had enough product to carry us through our daily emergency relief distributions – at times there were 13 and 14 distributions a day. WalMart donated all excess product from their Distribution Center to Feeding Tampa Bay to feed the 700,000+ people in our community affected by the storm.
Our donors support us all year long but in times of unexpected great need, the outpouring of support raises to levels that exceed all of our expectations. We are honored to partner with donors that put the needs of our community at the forefront of their priorities. Special thanks goes out to all of our donors, including: