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Food banks restock for mid-year

Published on: March 21, 2019

Local food banks look to restock mid-year through Feed the Bay


Publix Supermarket pre-prints a shopping list with needed items for local food pantries for customers who wish to donate. The Feed the Bay event will take place Sunday, March 31.

Even as so many things change in the world and the community from year to year, one thing never seems to change much – a lack of donations to food banks mid-year.
Once the holiday rush ends, so do most of the donations.
Feed the Bay, a church-based effort to restock those bare shelves, takes place March 31, and volunteers are still needed to help load trucks, dole items out to various charities in the area and hand out grocery lists at the door of a Publix super market near you.
Mel Langston, director of Feed the Bay and one of the original architects, recalls when her church, BayLife, was the only one doing this. The pastor announced one Sunday that the congregation should head out to shop. And it did. “We collected 30,000 pounds of food having no idea what we were doing,” she recalled.
“After about the third year, Publix asked for a meeting so the stores could be better prepared,” Langston said. Other churches joined the effort.
The stores now spotlight the items on pre-printed grocery lists, with many of them offering buy one, get one free. The stores make sure every cashier’s line is open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“I tell them what stores I want to be involved, and they map it out,” she said. Publix also donates five big trucks to haul the take to various charities around the area.
Among the agencies that will receive the donated goods are Emergency Care Help Organization, or ECHO, which recently opened a satellite in Riverview, Beth-El Farmworker Ministry in Wimauma and Good Samaritan Mission in Sun City Center.
“We met with the agencies five years in and asked what items they needed most,” said Stephan Stough, communications director for BayLife. “From that, the shopping lists came about. It also helps the regular shoppers.”
Once the food is collected, it is split among the charities, who then work together. If one agency gets items it doesn’t need, it shares them with another.
“Every agency is responsible for volunteers to unload their trucks,” said Stough.
“What I like about this program is there is no denomination,” said Mission Director Steve Schumm, who said his job is to help Langston in whatever way he can. “It is just the hands of God going out and buying food and getting it to food pantries. We don’t pick these agencies. If there is a need, we will send the food.”
Right now, just under 30 churches are participating.
“I have talked to people who have served at BayLife for numerous years and Feed the Bay is almost like a season for them,” Stough said. “They look forward to being able to do this every year. They love the idea their little bit goes in to somebody else’s little bit and it all creates 200,000 pounds of groceries that fills up empty food pantry shelves.”
One volunteer told Stough his son’s school class collects items throughout the year to donate at Feed the Bay. Many church members do the same.
Others show up for church on Feed the Bay Sunday, then hit the grocery store, fill their baskets and haul it into the parking lot where volunteers load it on semi tractor-trailers.
The event tends to be contagious in its goodness, Langston said.
“People are wearing the Feed the Bay shirts. People who see them will kind of catch the excitement or the buzz, and they will see the truck outside. They will ask what it is about.”
Before you know it, they’ve grabbed a pre-printed grocery list and started filling a second cart.
“Once you tell them what you are doing, we’ve had people go back in to the store and give a donation or buy a gift card,” Langston said. “It’s neat to see the general public do that.”
To learn more about locations or print out a grocery list, visit