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Saturday, Dec 20, 2014
Editorials

Editorial: The surprising face of hunger in the Tampa Bay area

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A new study includes some startling statistics about the face of hunger across the Tampa Bay region. For starters, one in every six people in a 10-county area in West-Central Florida seeks food assistance through the Feeding America Tampa Bay charity, about 840,000 people in all.

And the demographics within those numbers defy stereotypes. A quarter of the charitable food recipients live in their own homes, while 71 percent lease or rent homes. Over 40 percent have a high school degree, and nearly 30 percent completed at least some college. A quarter, roughly 200,000, are children, and nearly 20 percent are seniors. Three-quarters of the recipients must choose each month between paying for food or paying for utilities.

As the study so pointedly shows, hunger in the Tampa Bay area is far more pervasive than you might think. It reaches well beyond the homeless and uneducated and may very well reside in your neighborhood.

“They truly are our neighbors, our friends, our fellow church members and our co-workers,” says Thomas Mantz, the charity’s executive director.

Taken as a whole, the stark numbers lend urgency to the critical work Feeding America Tampa Bay does each day in our community.

The local charity is part of the national Feeding America network, which conducts a comprehensive study every four years based on the people they serve across the country, a number totaling 46.5 million each year.

Feeding America Tampa Bay is the unseen engine behind efforts to reach those in need of a meal. It collects surplus food donations from hundreds of grocery stores and local growers, and partners with major manufacturers and organized food drives. It sorts and delivers the food to over 600 faith-based and nonprofit soup kitchens, food pantries, shelters and other relief organizations. Each week it supplies enough food for 600,000 meals.

Next month is Hunger Action Month, and the charity is planning events to bring awareness to the number of people in the Tampa Bay region who face hunger every day. The public will be invited to contribute to food drives and funding pleas. A 24-hour event on Sept. 12 will bring volunteers together in a united effort to sort through the donated food collected by the charity so that it can be distributed to deserving programs across the region.

Feeding America Tampa Bay has proven itself a worthy cause over the years, and this year’s study shows the need is more acute than ever. Those wanting to contribute donations or time can visit the Feeding America Tampa Bay website (http://feedingamericatampabay.wordpress .com) for information.

The people you help may be living right down the street.

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