For decades, All Faiths Food Bank has brightened the holidays for people who are struggling to put food on the table. This year, with the need significantly increased due to the coronavirus pandemic, there are even more empty plates. All Faiths Food Bank has worked tirelessly to fill these plates through its annual holiday “ThankFULL Tummies and Hearts” fundraising campaign.
Hunger has long been an issue in our community but the coronavirus has caused an historical spike in need for food assistance. Since mid-March, All Faiths has seen a 120% increase in food distribution and a 48% increase in new clients. All Faiths’ thankFULL campaign raises funds to provide 10,000 turkeys for Thanksgiving and 4 million holiday meals for those who are facing hunger.
A volunteer with All Faiths Food Bank walks down an aisle of waiting cars. Since mid-March, All Faiths has seen a 120% increase in food distribution and a 48% increase in new clients.
“With the dire economic impact of the pandemic, we knew that the holiday season was going to be very different this year. The needs were so heightened, with no end in sight,” said All Faiths Food Bank CEO Sandra Frank. “How do you feed your family if your job has been lost and your paycheck has vanished? With the help of our community – foundations, corporate and agency partners, and our wonderful, generous donors – we are honored to provide a holiday celebration and healthy meals for so many in need this year.”
Veteran Melodee – who retired earlier than planned from nursing at Sarasota Memorial Hospital after she and her family became ill with COVID-19 – found it “humbling, so embarrassing” to come to the realization that they needed help. “How is this possible that we have to get free food?” she asked.
Even with her husband still working at the hospital, the family is relying on VA loans and pension money to get by. “It makes you want to cry – food is so expensive. Prices have gone up,” Melodee said. She is grateful that All Faiths is here for those who need help. “I feel blessed and don’t know how you are able to do all of this – help all of us,” she said.
For Houda, who has four children of her own and looks after her 16-year-old niece, food stamps don’t cover the needs for her whole family. She’s had much less work cleaning houses since the pandemic began because clients don’t want people in their homes. But All Faiths has been there for her when she needed it. “When I come here, I know for sure my kids will go to sleep with dinner. Thank you!”
In advance of Thanksgiving, All Faiths held six large-scale turkey distributions, launching the effort in early November, in partnership with The Bay Park Conservancy and Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, at Van Wezel. So many arrived at the debut event that All Faiths staff had to send back another truckload of birds to meet the need. Additional distributions were held in Sarasota, Venice, North Port and Arcadia; turkeys were also provided to clients of area partner agencies.
During Thanksgiving week, these partner agencies were able to get food from All Faiths to their clients. Lisa – from a partner agency in Sarasota – reported, “It was truly an amazing week! Hundreds of families were served Thanksgiving dinner and received groceries,” she said. “Folks were so humble and grateful for the food they received. AFFB has provided abundantly – not just with 20-lb. turkeys but with your incredible staff/team! Everything had been so well-organized that it made our distribution go very smoothly.”
A volunteer with All Faiths Food Bank distributes turkey and other holiday treats to people in need. This year, All Faiths’ thankFULL campaign raised funds to provide 10,000 turkeys for Thanksgiving and 4 million holiday meals for those who are facing hunger.
“Our focus is always on the most at-risk: children, families, seniors and veterans,” said All Faiths board chair, Nelle Miller, who also serves as board chair at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. “We are gratified at our community’s steadfast commitment to sharing the joy of helping others and the true meaning of the season. Particularly when times are tough, the generosity shown by our donors and the tireless efforts of our agency partners make me ‘thankFULL’ to live in this wonderful community.”
All Faiths Food Bank provides nutritious food throughout the year through its school pantries, mobile farm market, mobile pantries, backpack and nutrition education programs, and hundreds of partner agencies.
To donate to the thankFULL campaign (which runs through December 31) or to learn where and when to find upcoming food distributions, please go to www.allfaithsfoodbank.org.