TAMPA, Fla. — Feeding Tampa Bay provides seven million meals a week across 10 counties in the Tampa Bay region. The effort to get the food from the donation truck to people’s homes is massive. Thomas Mantz is the President & CEO of Feeding Tampa Bay and he spoke with ABC Action News about what happens behind the scenes.
“This is our receiving area where all the food comes in. Most importantly everything we get, we have to know what it is, and inspect it for safety, security, and usability. All of that starts here with our receiving team,” said Mantz.
Mantz explained that donations come from all over: grocery stores, organizations and local farmers.
“One of the great things about being a produce-rich state like Florida is there are a lot of terrific healthy vegetables we are able to get,” said Mantz.
When the crews open a truck at Feeding Tampa Bay, Mantz said they often do not know what is on it.
“It’s both a challenge and an opportunity because every truck and every day could be something different and we have to account for all of it and manage it,” said Mantz.
Once the food is loaded into the warehouse, the organizing takes a village. Feeding Tampa Bay has 50,000 plus volunteers a year. They help sort and manage the food that comes into the organization.
“Sometimes volunteers are sorting and packing. You can see some of that now. Sometimes they are boxing. Sometimes they are bagging produce. It depends on what we get and how we get it. All of the boxes they pack up will go back out to the agencies we partner with,” said Mantz.
Mantz said about 20 to 30 thousand boxes leave this facility every day; however, despite all the work they are doing, he says they are still not meeting current needs.
“I think the hard part of a job in an organization like ours is you are always aware that there is literally or metaphorically more people in line than we can take care of today. We are driven by the fact that we want to get to a hunger-free Tampa Bay,” said Mantz.
If you want to be part of the volunteer effort at Feeding Tampa Bay, visit feedingtampabay.org/volunteer.