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Hillsborough Co. food bank seeing more clients and less donations during COVID-19 pandemic

Posted: 10:37 AM, Mar 25, 2020
Updated: 2020-03-25 16:12:12-04
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HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Some food banks are scrambling to figure out how to handle the COVID -19 pandemic. The demand for supplies is increasing, while the number of donations is decreasing, according to Tampa Jewish Family Services.

“People are frantic for things they can’t find, and they are very concerned for what the future is going to hold,” said Lea Merrill Davidson-Bern.

Davidson-Bern has been stocking the shelves of the Tampa Jewish Family Services Community Food Bank for the past 18 years. She hasn’t seen anything quite like this.

“We have been getting a lot of phone calls from people who lost their jobs, a lot of two-income families are now no income families, and those families are now questioning when they can pick up food,” said Davidson-Bern.

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She said one of the biggest concerns is that large monetary donations are at a standstill.

“Not knowing how the stock market is going, people are hesitant to make large donations, and those are the donations we would typically reach out for in a time like this,” said Davidson-Bern.

As for actual food donations, she isn’t sure if they are even safe to accept. She’d prefer gift cards so she can then buy everything on her own.

“We don’t want to necessarily bring in random food from all over that many people might have handled then sending it out to people who could be immune compromised,” said Davidson-Bern.

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Then there are some supplies that Davidson-Bern said you can’t find anywhere.

“Where normally I might get 100 rolls of toilet paper and give two rolls to each of our clients when they pick up you can’t find that now,” said Davidson-Bern.

What she worries about most is when people just stop coming to the food bank because they are afraid to leave the house.

“My biggest fear is that they don’t have someone checking up on them, they don’t have the supplies that they need, and they are getting more and more isolated,” said Davidson-Bern.

For more on the Tampa Jewish Family Services Community Food Bank and how to donate, go to www.tjfs.org.