Food banks have always played an important role in our communities, albeit often behind the scenes. That all changed with COVID-19, which highlighted the magnitude of food insecurity across our country and in our own backyard.
Food assistance is one of the most significant and urgent needs in our community. Many of our neighbors are just one paycheck away from their families going hungry, and COVID-19 brought that reality into sharp focus.
Our We Help food pantry has seen a 331% increase over the last month in new households assisted. The number of families with children served has more than doubled.
Many more families have come to our drive-through (or bike or walk-through) food pantry because they’ve been laid off or furloughed during “safer at home” orders. Meanwhile, kids who may have received two meals at school are now at home.
Last year, we provided a record amount of food in our community – 11.3 million pounds – and we know that this will not be near enough to meet the need this year.
At the same time, our retail partners are working hard to keep up with consumer demand. Food donations from our retail partners have decreased to less than half of normal levels.
Many generous donors, foundations and corporate partners have stepped forward to help the Free Clinic respond to the urgent needs of our community in the midst of the pandemic. Thanks to generous monetary and food donations, even with the significant increase in families visiting us to receive food, we’ve been able to continue to feed our neighbors in need.
Yet we expect the demand will continue to grow.
Our Health Center and Residential Programs have also experienced changes and challenges from the COVID-19 crisis.
Our Residential Programs are continuing to serve dozens of men and women and 11 families who are “sheltering in place” in our residences. Many of the people in our Residential Programs have already lost their employment due to COVID-19.
How to Help
Here are ways you can help our neighbors in need while staying safe at home:
Spread the word. Let your friends and neighbors know the Free Clinic can help with food assistance. Share one of our Facebook posts or post on the Nextdoor App to help others find us.
Send a note or gift card. The ‘shelter in place’ orders apply to the men, women and families in our residential programs too, and with their lives already disrupted, a note from you, a picture or drawing from your child, or a small gift card they might spend online for something they need, will lift their spirits. Mail to St Petersburg Free Clinic, Attn: Encouraging Words, 863 3rd Ave N, St. St. Petersburg, FL 33701.
Share words of encouragement. Comment on our Facebook page with words of encouragement for the staff and volunteers who remain on the front lines to support our neighbors in need. We see your comments and share them across the organization!
In addition, healthy and willing volunteers are needed for our “on call” list for the drive-thru pantry as the COVID-19 situation evolves. If you are healthy, under 65 and have no chronic health conditions, please complete our initial risk screening questionnaire to be considered for an “on call” volunteer position.
Thank you for continuing to take care of our neighbors in need.