St. Petersburg clinic to open warehouse and double food capacity for families in need

Food demand has skyrocketed in past decade

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The need for food is skyrocketing in a Pinellas County community. But, luckily there's one place helping in a big way.

The St. Petersburg Free clinic, using a donation of $820,000 purchased a new warehouse. They hope it will help them to fill many more plates.The donation came from businesswoman Bonnie Hechtkopf, Chair at St. Petersburg-based Kobie Marketing. 

Every single month, 60,000 Pinellas County residents depend on the food bank to eat. Eulid Clemons is one of them. Without the food bank her life might look a lot different.

"Oh my god, I don't know what would have happened," she said, "We would go hungry."

An immigrant from Trinidad, Clemons cares for her two grandchildren. But when a heart attack led to two open heart surgeries, life got hard very quick.

"Try to put food on the table and pay bills. It's tough, it gets tough at times," she said.

"And food is the first thing that will go when they have to pay a utility bill or rent," agreed Debbie Sokolov, Director of Development at St. Petersburg Free Clinic.

Now, the food bank is expanding to a warehouse at 3115 44th Avenue North in St. Pete.

The timing couldn't be better. Food consumption at the bank has more than doubled. In 2010 it was 1.6 million pounds and this year it's expected to hit 4 million pounds.

The bank's current 5,000 square foot room is where they keep most of their donations but with the new warehouse, they've got triple the amount of room and that means a lot more options.

With more space and a larger fridge they'll offer healthy, fresh produce.

"They [farmers] call it ugly produce, not pretty enough to sell to the grocers," said Sokolov.

Maybe not pretty but this food has the power to shape the future.

"We're feeding hungry people who are then able to work better," she said, "To feed hungry children who are then able to study better in school."

The warehouse will be named the Jared S. Hechtkopf Community Food Bank. It is expected to open July 4.

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