“People sometimes ask me what it cost to run the Pantry,” says director Tom Bullaro. “They are shocked when I tell them. I wouldn’t believe it myself if I didn’t pay the bills.
“Among our two biggest expenses are keeping food cold and safe — and the cost of fuel and maintenance for our two trucks.”
According to Bullaro, the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires that all non-perishable food be stored below 79 degrees at all times. Frozen foods must be kept frozen. Fruits, vegetables, dairy, and so on must be refrigerated. And our trucks must be refrigerated for hauling food. Hence our big bills.
“Our Tampa Electric bill for our last fiscal year (July ’20-June 21) was $9,672,” Bullaro says. “Our cooler cost an additional $449. The cost, installation, and repair of our walk-in freezer cost $1,135.”
Keeping two trucks running is costly as well, he adds. Pantry trucks are picking up food all over the county almost every day of the week, so we are wearing them out.
“We spent $4,535 for fuel, $7,318 for maintenance, and $1,666 for insurance last year.”
The Pantry’s 2006 truck, with more than 260,000 miles, is especially expensive, Bullaro says. Just this week, in fact, he had to spend $750 for batteries to keep it running.
It’s always something every month, he says. This is why Bullaro hopes to get the funding for a replacement truck one day soon.
Another recent Pantry expense is the $1,200 Bullaro paid to repair a forklift the Pantry has on loan for three years. This forklift has been a “Godsend,” he says. It has made all the difference when men are unpacking the trucks.
The forklift is not a luxury, he explains. Cartons filled with food may weigh 30, 40, even 50 pounds. Pantry volunteers, including Bullaro, have sustained serious back and shoulder injuries from lifting these boxes.
“Our volunteers will only do this for a short while,” he says. “Before you know it, they stop coming to help.
“It’s important for the community to see what we have to do to stay open. These operating costs are over and above the cost of the food itself.
“While we appreciate donations towards our operating expenses, we want everyone to know that any donations specifically gifted to us only for food are used only for food. We have more than two thousand clients registered at Our Lady’s Pantry, half of whom come regularly for food. Thanks to the help of so many people, we are able to share lots of nutritious food with many hundreds of men, women, and children every week. Importantly, the food we distribute is free to our families.
To learn more about Our Lady’s Pantry, please visit us at: https://www.ourladyspantry.com