By Rosemarie Dowell
Positive Press News
Kids in south Lake County won’t go hungry during the statewide school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic – if a Groveland-based non-profit has its way.
FAITH (Feed and Instruct the Hungry) Neighborhood Center Tuesday began distributing meal packs to students unable to pick up free weekday meals from area public schools, an initiative that began March 23.
The non-profit at 14727 Timber Village Road, prepared 500 of the two-week packs containing ten days-worth of breakfast and lunch meals for distribution, said Executive Director Patricia Kry.
“We have families that don’t have transportation to the schools, or who don’t have gas money to even drive to the schools during the week,” said Kry. “We have lots of kids who live in rural areas and can’t walk or ride their bikes to pick up a meal.”
The packs contain items such as cereal, beef ravioli or Spaghetti-O’s, along with snacks like granola bars and or fruit, if available, and will be included with other food the non-profit hands out to clients.
“We want to make sure the kids that are the most vulnerable are getting the food they need”, said Kry, who relies on three part-time workers and 110 volunteers to keep the ministry running. “We don’t want families and students that are able to make it to meal sites to come here and take advantage of us.”
The non-profit, founded in 1972, expects to distribute 500 meal packs every two weeks to residents throughout South Lake County, roughly the same amount it handed out during its 10-week-long summer meal program last year.
“We’ll start out with 500 packs and see what happens,” said Kry, a former Lake County School District nurse.
But with the effects of mounting job losses caused by the coronavirus outbreak beginning to hit, Key said she is worried about keeping up with an expected increase in demand for assistance from low-income families in Groveland, Mascotte, and Stuckey.
“We are concerned; people need to understand that our numbers are going to stay high and will only increase because jobs have already been eliminated and businesses are going under, she said.
“The need is going to increase,” said Kry. “We’ll also have our summer meal pack program too.”
The Center has already felt the effects of the swelling economic crisis. Second Harvest Food Bank, from which the Center buys its food from has been forced to modify the amount of food the Center purchases as well as the availability of certain food items, due to a decrease in donations and panic buying.
“We want it to be varied, but right now we’re limited,” said Kry, “It might be a lot of the same things.”
Meanwhile, monetary donations to FAITH are already down, said Kry.
“We get funds from area churches that take up special collections for us, but now that they’re closed, it is affecting us,” she said. Individual donors are holding back over their own economic uncertainty as well.
“This is going to be worse than the recession of 2008,” said Kry. “We need donations of non-perishable food items as well as funds to help us purchase food from Second Harvest.”
To donate to FAITH Neighborhood Center visit their website faithneighborhoodcenter.com/ and click on the “Ways to Help,” link.