TAMPA, Fla. — Every Friday morning, Alex Baron helps show the community around USF that health and wellness doesn't have to cost you much.
"Welcome we're at the Harvest Hope [Community] Garden here in the University area. It's been around since 2014," he said.
Baron is the Garden Coordinator for the free community garden. It's run by the University Area Community Development Corporation (CDC), a nonprofit that works to better the community through programs and education.
They also provide free food through a free pantry. Both are open to the community on Friday mornings.
The CEO of the University Area CDC, Dr. Sarah Combs, says the need for free healthy food and food education was already great before the pandemic.
"Unfortunately the University Area CDC is a food desert," said Dr. Combs.
And the need is climbing.
"We have been getting calls, people saying 'My paycheck won't stretch it just won't cut it.' 'I'm a single mom, I have four kids,'" Combs said.
To help meet that growing need, the University Area CDC is also planning to expand its pantry to three other locations in the city.
And ultimately, they said the goal is to feed people while maintaining a sense of dignity.
"I think that when we think about food, we give someone a label for being food insecure. But it's our neighbors, it people right down the street that are really having challenges with being able to eat," said Dr. Combs.
The nonprofit also provides cooking classes, job placement, eviction help, and more. To learn about all of the programs it offers, click here.