PINELLAS PARK, Fla. — New numbers released Friday from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show inflation has seen the largest year-over-year increase across several types of goods since 1981.
Food prices are up 10% in a single year. Gas prices are up 48% since 2021. Energy costs are up 34% and used car prices are up 16%.
That’s leading more people in the Tampa Bay area to trim their budgets with many facing food insecurity for the first time in their lives.
Friday morning, a grocery giveaway event at England Brothers Park in Pinellas Park drew hundreds of people. The free food drive-through event, put on by the Pinellas County Commission, City of Pinellas Park, Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and the St. Pete Free Clinic, ran out of supplies after just 75 minutes.
With food insecurity on the rise in our community, St. Pete Free Clinic (SPFC) is seeing an increased demand for food assistance and is now hosting free food giveaways, both inside a clinic and in drive-up formats, 5 days a week. Families don’t have to show any paperwork, prove their income or face any other barriers in order to receive the free food.
At Friday’s fresh food giveaway, a line of cars snaked through England Brothers Park three times. Commissioner Charlie Justice said even though the event didn’t begin until 9AM, people started lining up at 7:30AM.
“We knew there was a need but when you see the lines like this it tells you how deep that need really is,” Commissioner Justice added.
Volunteers from a handful of local organizations loaded up about 350 cars with fresh produce, meat, eggs, and dairy.
Jerome Anderson couldn’t be more grateful for the assistance.
“This will help tremendously. I was just thinking about how I’m going to take care of groceries for the next week or two and this is really helping us out a lot,” Anderson said with a smile.
Anderson has been working 2-3 jobs just to afford the necessities: gas, rent, and food.
“I have to work overtime a lot just to make ends meet; so it’s pretty difficult. I can get by but it’s been really tough,” he added.
Nicole Sinner was also happy to receive groceries. Without it, she worried her 3-year-old daughter would not have access to fresh fruit and veggies.
“Sage is 3 years old, and she just turned 3 so she is really growing and going through a growth spurt and it’s really important for me to make sure she has all the nutrients she needs,” she added.
Since COVID, organizations like the St. Pete Free Clinic have seen twice as many people turning to them for help.
Shaina Bent, the Chief Operations Officer, said they are now helping 500 families every day, 5 days a week. “…and that number is not going down,” she elaborated. “We supply a lot of food to a number of partners throughout Pinellas County and their numbers are rising too. The need for food is real and this is our new reality.”
It comes as donations to non-profits either decline or hold steady nationwide.
“I think people think the pandemic is almost over and everything is fine but really our numbers have doubled. and so that support is needed now more than ever,” Bent added.