Across the Tampa Bay area, food banks are feeding nearly 20,000 new mouths this year. Food pantries are struggling to keep up.
“Just a little bit of food you know to help make it to the next paycheck I guess,” Philip Wood, who visited the St. Petersburg Free Clinic Pantry, said.
Wood is working in the food industry, but his part-time gig doesn't fully support him.
“It just sucks because sometimes you go to sleep, not knowing what you’re going to eat, not knowing, where you’re going to eat when you wake up and it’s just, thank god for places like this,” Wood said.
The St. Petersburg Free Clinic Pantry feeds people living on the edge of poverty and they supply food to dozens of other pantries in Pinellas County. Their supplies are at an all-time low.
They served more than 40,000 people this past year. That's about 9,000 more people than the year prior.
Metropolitan Ministries said they're feeding about 9,000 new families this year.
“Wages haven’t increased a lot, but housing costs have increased and other things have increased, food kind of gets left till last, you have to pay your rent,” Beth Houghton, executive director of the St. Petersburg Free Clinic said.
In the last year, a little more than 10% of Florida's workforce has been unemployed or underemployed, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics. Even people waiting for food said a job doesn't guarantee security.
“There’s people here with 2 and 3 jobs, part-time jobs and augmenting with other little part-time jobs, it’s very difficult, you know, to have the money for food, you have to have that shelter,” Diane Lynn said.
This food bank said they need basics like peanut butter, soup and any shelved goods, to send each family home with something.
Even though the unemployment rate is going down, more than 10% of jobs that grew in our area last year were in amusement, gambling and recreation, which don't have traditionally high salaries.