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Wednesday, Apr 16, 2014
Pasco Tribune

Food bank may bring meals to needy


NEW PORT RICHEY — If needy people can’t come to get free food, then the free food should go to them, Volunteer Way CEO Lester Cypher says.

He is proposing that the food bank add a mobile pantry because the nonprofit charity has two refrigerated trucks.

With about 20,000 mouths to feed every month, Volunteer Way gives away a lot of food from its base of operations, 7820 Congress St.

The food bank ships supplies to many food pantries at area churches or other charities that might be closer to needy residents.

Even so, many people still go hungry because they live in isolated pockets of Pasco County, Cypher said. Those areas, such as sections of Moon Lake Road, often lack bus service.

In addition, the new warehouse for Volunteer Way is nearing completion a few blocks north of the existing base, Cypher said.

“We’ve got lines out the door every day,” Cypher said about the current overcrowded location. Often, the food bank must turn away people seeking help because the agency runs out of food.

The much larger warehouse with 10,000 square feet at 8601 Congress St. means Volunteer Way can help more people. The 6.89 acres also allows Volunteer Way to grow more of its own food.

The first phase is done, with shrubbery and other landscaping planted Dec. 27. Cypher expects to get a certificate of occupancy in the near future from the county.

By the end of January, crews should finish planting fruit trees, Cypher added. The food bank will harvest its own peaches, pears, kumquats, bananas and other fruits.

Within a month or two, the second phase will finish the office space inside the facility.

“They’re going to have a party when we leave,” Cypher said with a chuckle, referring to when operations transfer from 7820 Congress. Semi-trucks often block both lanes of Congress Street when making deliveries. The new warehouse has a loading dock and plenty of space for delivery trucks to maneuver.

Construction of the new facility is nearing completion. Cypher originally thought Volunteer Way might move into its new digs by the end of 2011.

“I’m persistent, I don’t quit,” Cypher said with a hearty laugh about his errant prediction.