In: Christian Voice
Kelly Wise Valdes
It is estimated that there are more than 49,000 children who face food insecurity in Hillsborough County each year. Food insecurity refers to USDA’s measure of adequate food for an active, healthy life for all household members. Food-insecure children are living in households experiencing food shortages. Families are not necessarily food-insecure all the time but may reflect a household’s need to make decisions between important basic needs, such as housing or medical bills, and purchasing nutritionally adequate foods.
Because of this need, Our Lady of Guadalupe Food Pantry in Wimauma is expanding its outreach. The pantry has been a resource to clients in Balm, Wimauma and Sun City Center for more than 20 years. Our Lady’s Pantry is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization run entirely by volunteers. It distributes food from The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)—a federal program under the umbrella of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). TEFAP helps supplement the diets of low- income Americans, including the elderly, by providing them with emergency food and nutrition assistance at no cost.
“We are now in a position to serve clients in Apollo Beach, Gibsonton, Riverview and Ruskin as well,” said Director Tom Bullaro. “Thanks to the generosity of so many individuals, supermarkets and other vendors, we are usually able to provide our registered clients with a wide variety of food required for good health.”
Each car receives a box or bag full of groceries, including fresh meats, produce, dairy and a variety of dry goods.
“Our Lady’s Pantry serves anyone in need without regard to race or religion. And everyone is treated with respect,” said Bullaro.
According to Pat McAdams, who has been a volunteer since 2014, additional volunteers at the pantry are always welcome. Along with the need for volunteers, monetary donations also are always welcome.
“We are especially grateful for cash, because we can purchase much of our food at wholesale prices,” said McAdams. “Beyond food, our big need right now is for a new refrigerated truck to replace our old 2006 truck with more than 260,000 miles. Having a refrigerated truck is required by the USDA and Feeding Tampa Bay.”
Without adequate nutrition, everything becomes more difficult —including learning, growing and staying healthy. If you are on a fixed income and worrying whether to buy food, or medicine, or pay your bills, Our Lady’s Pantry welcomes you.
“If you wish to register as one of our regular clients, kindly bring your ID/driver’s license and come see us on Saturday,” said Bullaro.
Our Lady’s Pantry is located at 16650 U.S. Hwy. 301 S., just south of Sun City Center Blvd. (SR 674), in Wimauma. The pantry is in the classroom building on the far-right corner of Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission. It is open every Saturday from 7:30-10:30 a.m. For more information, visit www.ourladyspantry.com.