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Food bank raising funds for storage

Community groups join efforts to store food locally and meet residents' growing demand.

By BARBARA BEHRENDT
Published January 26, 2007


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photo
[Times photo: Danny Ghitis]
Civic club president Diane Toto, center, listens to Robin Fogg during Wednesday's food distribution at Bell Villa Motel and Mobile Home Park in Homosassa Springs.

HOMOSASSA - With growing numbers of Citrus residents so poor that they struggle to feed themselves and their families, a coalition of community groups are banding together to help.

Calling itself the Citrus Community Food Bank, the coalition has kicked off a campaign to raise $500,000 to construct a 5,000-square-foot food storage facility complete with loading docks, pallet racks and walk-in freezers and coolers.

While a variety of churches and other organizations distribute available food to residents now, much of it must be brought in from the Suncoast Harvest Food Bank in Land O'Lakes.

Having a storage facility in Citrus will not just provide convenience, it would allow collection of even more food than before, including perishable foods from local grocery stores, large shipments of a particular food item that sometimes becomes available, and surplus farm products.

"I don't know where it's going to be but I do know that it's needed," said Diane Toto, president of the Homosassa Civic Club.

The club has spearheaded the campaign to build the distribution center. While Toto's group has only been distributing food in the Homosassa area for about the last year, they have already run into storage issues.

"When we get food in, it's jammed in the shed, stashed all over the kitchen, sitting on top of the freezers," she said. "We're losing a tremendous amount of food because we don't have a place to store it."

The Civic Club will own the facility but will lease it to Suncoast Harvest.

"This is going to benefit the entire county," Toto said.

In addition to the Civic Club, the partnership includes Suncoast Harvest Food Bank, the United Way of Citrus County, the Salvation Army and Citrus Harvest Inc.

For the United Way, a centralized Citrus food storage facility would assist in efforts to create a Human Care Network in Citrus County, said John Marmish, executive director.

"It's something that we've been working with the Salvation Army on for some time," he said. "We're identifying locations throughout the county where food can be dispensed."

One day a week, churches come together to help feed the poor, Marmish said.

"These people searching for food really can't afford to be wasting gas to go find it," he said.

In addition, they learn about what other needs people might have and arrange to have other social services available during future food distributions.

Funds for the storage facility are being sought from other major corporate sponsors who assist the United Way and Salvation Army, and Suncoast Harvest is seeking grant funding.

The coalition also hopes someone will donate two acres or more as a site for the building.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at 564-3621 or behrendt@sptimes.com.

Fast Facts:

 

How to help out

-Fundraising efforts include a benefit concert scheduled for March 31 featuring Dollywood headliner James Rogers and a Harley-Davidson Battle of the Bands and Ride for Food event June 9.

-Those wishing to contribute to the effort can donate to Citrus Community Food Bank, P.O. Box 331, Homosassa, FL, 34487

[Last modified January 25, 2007, 23:03:37]


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