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Seniors getting fresh food thanks to St. Petersburg woman's mobile pantry

The COVID-19 pandemic gave Kelli Casto an idea. The seniors her non-profit served needed fresh food so she started mobile food pantries to serve thousands.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A steady stream of seniors made the trip downstairs Monday morning to the entryway of Presbyterian Towers. They were greeted with a smile, behind masks, and bags for groceries. They shopped and left in just a few minutes.

The wave continued for two hours. It’s the latest stop in Kelli Casto’s month-long mission to get fresh food to seniors in need. The founder of Saving Our Seniors has always put the needs of seniors above her own.

“I just want to have no senior without,” she said. “I love seniors and I love helping them.”

That includes Doris Callahan, who has lived at Presbyterian Towers for about 18 months. She came downstairs to the pop-up pantry.

“It’s very convenient,” she said after gathering eggs, bananas and sweet potatoes. “A lot of (residents) don’t have their cars anymore. It’s not that easy to get to the supermarket. The closest one is over a half-mile away and a lot of them can’t walk that distance anymore.”

Casto has been doing mobile pantries at senior living centers in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Polk counties. She has served 4,000 seniors in just her first month. Each event costs about $300. Some food has been donated but she’s been buying the food herself.

She’s looking for sponsors to help provide the food.

“Every dollar really goes back to the charity to help the seniors,” she said.

Credit: 10 Tampa Bay

The locations are determined ahead of time and all safety precautions are in place in regard to COVID-19. Shoppers sign in for a pre-determined shopping slot and volunteers with masks and gloves pick out the produce for the seniors. Facilities are chosen by Casto based on relationships she’s developed with multiple facilities during her time as the leader of Saving Our Seniors.

“I love the way that it makes me feel and I love to be able to help them,” Casto said. “You know, they’re just so grateful and you know today they’re not forgotten about in society.”

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