Our Lady of Guadalupe Food Pantry provides an estimated 10,000 pounds of food for a couple hundred families on a typical Saturday morning. Because it is so much food, folks often ask how the Pantry accumulates this abundance week after week.
Tom Bullaro, who is co-director of the Pantry with his wife Anita, says this abundance is only possible because of the generosity of so many in the community.
“The funding from countless individuals, coupled with the selfless dedication of dozens of helpers, has made all the difference.”
The story really begins at 6 a.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays, each week, when volunteers drive the Pantry truck to Feeding America, Tampa Bay, to pick up our order, which Bullaro had placed online weeks earlier.
Interestingly, ordering this food is a multi-step process that includes a monthly wholesale order, supplemented with other Feeding America foods, much of which is $.18 a pound, and some USDA foods.
“The wholesale order I placed yesterday cost $3,211.20,” says Bullaro. “But it ensures that we have at least the essentials our families need to eat healthy for a couple of weeks, so it's really important.”
Once the wholesale order has been placed, Bullaro goes back online every day to see what else is available. With this supplemental order, he is filling in the blanks, so to speak, hoping to find other nutritious foods to balance out diets.
Many of the daily offerings are, indeed, $.18 cents a pound. Much of the more nutrient-rich foods that families need, however, are available only at wholesale prices. On this day, for example, beef stew and black beans are available. Both are high-protein foods to build a meal around, so Tom ordered cases of both.
“Today's total cost is $448 — but the Pantry is actually getting a 3,393 pounds of food!”
While Bullaro paid wholesale prices for the beef stew and black beans, many other things were $.18 a pound or less. And quite a few items — including water, black tea, and coffee — were free. All things considered, this total order cost a stunning $.13 a pound.”
In addition to the wholesale and supplemental orders Bullaro places online, and USDA foods that the government contributes, the Pantry can shop in the Winn-Dixie Charitable Market at Feeding America. Here, we find more boxes of assorted food items trucked in from Winn-Dixie, Publix, Sam's Club, and even Amazon!
“We also receive weekly donations of food from Big Lots, Sav-a-Lot, Aldie's, Publix, Panera, Costco, and Sodexo,” says Bullaro, overwhelmed by the generosity of so many. “I look forward to placing these orders and doing all we do to serve our families, but it could never happen without the help of so many people. Thank you, everyone.