DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Whitney Mikkelsen walks with a cane. Her mobility and speech is slowed by cerebral palsy.
Her disabilities did not stop the Dunedin mom of two girls from starting a new volunteer club getting healthy food to the homeless and hungry in very fast fashion.
“Pick up. Drop off. In twenty minutes. And all these people will be fed,” says Mikkelsen.
Whitney’s Dunedin chapter of Food Rescue US is a hyper-local direct-transfer of still-good food about to be thrown out by grocery stores and restaurants to nearby churches and shelters that help the homeless and hungry.
More than 700,000 people in the Tampa Bay area are “food insecure.” That means they are not sure where their next meal is coming from.
“Doing this sort of work really reminds you of the poverty just around the corner,” says Mikkelsen.
On this day, Nature’s Food Patch grocery store in Dunedin gives Whitney, her 14-year-old daughter Olivia, fellow supermom Heather Smith-Levin and more several boxes of fresh fruit, sandwiches, yogurt and milk.
This food would normally end up in a landfill. Thanks to Whitney and her crew, the food is immediately driven a few miles away to The Refuge, a small church and shelter where hungry mouths await.
“This is awesome!” says Dennis, a regular face at the Refuge.
The food is immediately presented on a table to a dozen-plus men and women at the Refuge.
Shaun Powers, who runs the Refuge, understands how extra special the delivery.
“It’s healthy food. And it goes right on the table and they start eating," said Powers. "It really makes a difference."
Whitney wants to find more stores like Nature’s Food Patch that are willing to help. But she also wants to find more places like the Refuge who are open to Food Rescue deliveries.
“It feels so good to help people and know that I’m making a difference in the community,” says Mikkelsen.