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Tampa-area food banks see increase in need, decrease in donations

Volunteers attribute the additional clients to the fact that many people are out of work.
Credit: wtsp

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla — Social distancing mandates are meant to keep us all safe, but they’re also causing some to lose their jobs: That means people may need services, like food banks.

St. Petersburg Free Clinic says the number of clients it has received has increased by about 50 percent. There have been fewer donations from its partners.

Carlton Williams is loading up his bag Tuesday with groceries for himself and his family.

"It’s very helpful in this time of the virus that’s going on," Williams said.

He knows he’s not the only one who needs it.

"It’s a blessing in a time, actually with what we’re all going through, food is always needed," he said.

St. Petersburg Free Clinic is doing things a little bit differently, operating with fewer staff members and volunteers so they can follow CDC guidelines and moving the operation outside. The longer lines are also new.

"Last Thursday, we saw 619 households. On that day, it was triple what we would see before COVID-19," CEO Jennifer Yeagley said.

They attribute the increase in need for food to a decrease in jobs.

"We know people in the restaurant industry, the service industry, people all over the place, who were living paycheck to paycheck lost that employment," Yeagley said.

Yeagley says COVID-19 has also disrupted supply chains

"Donations from retail partners are down about 50 percent," she said.

Yeagley expects to see more new faces as the pandemic continues.

"What we really want people to know, in this environment and going forward, there are going to be people who maybe have never had to come to our food pantry before, and we are here. We serve anyone who comes to us," she said.

For information on St. Petersburg Free Clinic and how to help, go here: https://stpetersburgfreeclinic.org/projects/food-bank/ 

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