Volusia County is home to numerous food drives that are either situational to special events, such as holidays, or are in place year-round.
With well-known food programs, such as the Council on Aging’s Meals on Wheels program, the Jerry Doliner Food Bank sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Volusia & Flagler Counties, and Halifax Urban Ministries’ food pantry, are other food drives necessary?
The simple answer is yes.
Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida collects more than 1 million pounds of food and thousands of dollars each year through community food and fund drives sponsored by individuals, corporations, clubs, schools and associations. The food bank covers six counties, including Volusia. It is a member of Feeding America, the largest charitable domestic hunger-relief organization in the U.S.
Second Harvest secures and distributes food and grocery products to about 550 local nonprofit feeding programs throughout Central Florida, including nonprofit partners in Volusia like HUM, Provision Packs and the Jewish Federation. Yet partner organizations also rely on additional sources of food and monetary donations.
“Each organization usually has something that makes them unique and makes them or us fill a specific need, said Carrie Torres, executive director of Provision Packs. “There are different needs throughout our community. For instance, we focus on children. We have other organizations and churches where maybe their primary focus is on the elderly. Then we have other organizations, churches that use trucks and vehicles to go into the community for those who do not have transportation getting out to specific pantries.”
Provision Packs is a food supplementary program started in 2014, aimed to supply nutritional assistance to low-income children and their families. A dozen schools in Volusia are served by the program with another five schools in Flagler County.
The food also is distributed in various ways, Ms. Torres said. “Ours, for instance, go into the backpacks of children. Others have specific drive-through organizations where you drive through and pick up food on specific days of the week with set times. Other pantries have different hours to help reach those who cannot get there during specific work hours.
“I think we all refer and work together,” she said. “We are trying to put together a puzzle, a wholeness and it takes each of us to apply the pieces to create a wholeness in the community. One pantry can’t do it all.”
First the Covid-19 pandemic and then extreme inflation has increased the need to feed, according to Ms. Torres. “And there is a growing need with natural disasters with loss of work and loss of income. I don’t think anyone would give so much of their time and their hearts if there wasn’t a purpose or service that was needed.”
Bill and Barbara Hawkins have been leading a food drive for 10 years out of the Crane Lakes community in Port Orange. The collected food is part of the “Santa to the Rescue” program, coordinated by the Port Orange Police Department. The department also uses some of the collected food for the Silver Bells program for seniors.
“(Food drives) are necessary,” Ms. Hawkins said. “We have been doing it for years with the Port Orange Police Department. The year before last there were only three seniors on their list; last year there were 35. This year it will be unbelievable because of the (storms). So many people are in need. We do a tremendous amount of food; I am going to guess ($2,000 to $3,000) worth of food, which is incredible. (There is) never too much food, especially this year. You go into the grocery store and you go into sticker shock.”
Mr. Hawkins noted the food collected at Crane Lakes will be picked up by the Port Orange Volunteers in Police Service Dec. 1.
“They are going to come to my house because my garage is full and then they are going to come down to the clubhouse where the other donations are that residents throughout the community have dropped off there,” he said. “Some (residents) give me money and Barbara and I go shopping wherever we can get the best deal. Then the Santa to the Rescue team decides who is going to get it. We just get them the food and they just come and pick it up.” The Hawkins started collecting food Oct. 1.
Across the county in West Volusia, Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Church in Deltona has a food bank open two days each week for parishioners and Deltona residents.
“We have an imperative from the gospel; take care of the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked,” said Fr. Chris Hoffman, church pastor. “We take that literally by having a vibrant St. Vincent De Paul Society which collects clothing, takes care of medical stuff when we can, even rental and housing kind of things, but mostly food. To make sure everyone has food to eat. I think it is always going to be necessary. Government cannot do everything as much as they want to or think they should. We have a different mission based upon what God wants us to do.”
He added “I do not think there is a redundancy. Even if someone gets help from us on a Monday, they still need to eat later in the week. (Due to the hurricanes) people that otherwise would not have needed help, now will. We hear that when children get free food from the schools when they are in school that is great. But when there is no school, can the parents provide the food that would have otherwise been provided by the school? Maybe they cannot.”
Parishioners donate food and the church also partners with Second Harvest Food Bank. Many Volusia County churches and nonprofit agencies sponsor food banks with an ongoing plea to furnish them year-round. Check with your city or town or local churches to see where food assistance is available. You can also visit the United Way of Volusia-Flagler Counties at unitedwayvfc.org or call 211.
On “Giving Tuesday” Nov. 29, you can join fellow Hunger Heroes in sharing the food is love concept with children, families and seniors experiencing hunger in Volusia. For information, visit feedhopenow.org/givingtuesday sponsored by Second Harvest Food Bank.