“Hunger has no season.”
If anyone should ever question why the Suncoast needs an agency like All Faiths Food Bank, there is the answer. It is also the motto of a non-profit organization that is finding it harder and harder to help the people who need it.
Federal funding has been cut for All Faiths, and in a terrible twist of fate courtesy of an economic downturn, the list of people who depend upon its services to put food on the table continues to grow in Sarasota and Manatee counties.
“USDA funding has been cut back,” said Aundria Castleberry, director of development for All Faiths. “They say they have to go back to legislation and revisit the food they’re giving out across the country.”
All Faiths Director of Operations Jim Swinford says that food banks have not been the only agencies hit hard by the cuts, but in an organization that services an area the size of his, the diminished food supply makes a big difference.
“There was a cut across the board to schools, federal prisons and food banks,” he said. “That (the normal USDA contribution) equals 18 percent of the 6 million pounds of food we get annually.”
Swinford said 12 percent of that total comes from food the food bank purchases with monetary contributions and fund-raising efforts, and the other 70 percent comes from straight donations. Considering that All Faiths does not receive state funding of any kind and depends completely upon grants and individual and corporate donations, it’s imperative that they find a way to keep the food coming in.
“As fast as the food comes in, the faster it goes out,” Castleberry said.
According to All Faiths literature, the number of people who depend upon the services it provides is staggering. Last year, they distributed more than 5.5 million pounds of food, which equates to nearly 4.6 million meals.
They are currently providing food for more than 88,000 meals a week, and are serving more than 190 agencies and programs. Some of the local programs that are benefiting include soup kitchens, pantries, shelters, BackPack Program, Growing Healthy Kids, Cooking Matters, Kids Cafés, Mobile Cupboards, senior outreach and more.
Coming up is a very busy holiday season and All Faiths' big Thanksgiving turkey giveaway.
“We’re going to be giving out 6,000 turkeys, and we’ll distribute them the Friday before Thanksgiving, thanks to Walmart,” Swinford said. “We will have more than 100 agencies sending us orders.”
In this day and age, with so many people who can offer assistance for so little money, there is no reason why anyone should have to go hungry. If you would like to help, not just at the holidays, but year around, there are several ways you can be involved:
- Donate food. Though grocery stores donate perishable items like bread and produce, canned goods and “shelf fillers” are always needed. Swinford and Castleberry say staples like canned tuna and meats, canned fruits and vegetables, tomato products, soups and peanut butter and jelly are big requests.
- Donate money. Many times, All Faiths will use funds to buy much needed food that hasn’t been donated. They also have to pay some employees, such as the drivers of the four trucks they use to pick up and drop off donations. And it doesn’t have to be a huge donation--writing a check for just $12 can provide a Thanksgiving dinner for one family, with all the trimmings.
- Donate time. If you have donations for All Faiths, it’s very helpful to them for you to go to their warehouse facility and drop them off. As much as they are thankful for whatever amount of food you are willing to give them, it still costs them gas money and drivers’ wages when they come to you and pick up. You can also host a food drive of your own, if you want—filling just one barrel can provide about 230 meals.
Now, more than ever, the hungry in our own community need our help. For more information and other ideas about what you can do to make a difference, please visit the website at www.allfaithsfoodbank.org.
All Faiths Food Bank
8171 Blaikie Court, Sarasota