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THE COMMUNITY FOOD PANTRY: The Haven for the ‘Working Poor’

son to commit to this purpose when he witnessed a family asking for help from Village Presbyterian Church and recognized the need, even in our middle-class neighborhood, to take care of each other. I served as the lead volunteer of the Community Food Pantry (CFP) until 2015 when I became the director, and I am humbled daily by how we continue to serve the needs of the hungry in our community.

By Monica Wilson

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he Community Food Pantry hosts an unlikely mix of people of all ages and from all walks of life coming together for the singular cause of bringing hope and dignity to those whose circumstances require them to ask for assistance. Many of our clients are the “working poor,” or those who struggle to make the mortgage payment and keep the lights on while feeding their families. In 2008, I was inspired by my young

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Our pantry is different from most due to the fact that we are a “client choice” operation. This means we invite clients to shop as they would at their local grocery store for meat, dairy, prepared foods, fresh produce, and grains. I find that when people are able to choose what they can eat, less food goes to waste. These wholesome food options are provided in large part through Feeding Tampa Bay, and local partners like Publix, Whole Foods, Fresh Market, Sprouts Farmers Market, and Target. For years, Feeding Tampa Bay had the vision that we should prepare ourselves to incorporate organic foods into our operations, and I remember thinking that was never going to hap-

pen. Well, here we are in 2017, and some days we look like a grocery store produce section with assortments of fruits and veggies that you and I would eat out of our refrigerators. We also give back by sharing our bounty with other local agencies, such as Joshua House (a safe haven for abused children), McClain Inc. (a home for developmentally-disabled adults), Christian Social Services, and the homeless and nearly-homeless through an outreach program. Many of our clients hold off on medical attention until they are eligible for Medicare or because they must choose between buying prescription drugs and feeding their families. To help alleviate these struggles, the Pantry has a nurse and a social worker available each Wednesday to take blood pressure screenings and offer referrals to healthcare and community providers. This past spring, we partnered with BayCare to conduct a health fair, and we have another scheduled for October. This event featured health screenings and offered nutritional information. The Pantry provided access to

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