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With the acute phases of Covid diminishing, Covid-related funding and aid are also diminishing. However, worsening economic conditions are keeping the need for basic supports and services as high as the early months of Covid when the economy shut down. Far from being able to return to pre-Covid levels of service, the St. Pete Free Clinic finds itself needing to step up even more.
“The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2021, hourly wages in the US increased by 3.6%. However, current rates of inflation gave the average worker a 2% pay cut. The reality is that nearly 50% of our neighbors in Pinellas County work hard every day, sometimes holding more than one job, and still have to make tough choices each month, like whether to pay the utility bill or buy groceries for their family,” said Jennifer Yeagley, CEO of SPFC.
“SPFC wants to make sure our neighbors don’t need to make those kinds of choices. We are excited to share upcoming expansions that will allow us to do more to help people fill gaps, stay healthy, and ease the stress of untenable circumstances.”
Expansion of Food Distribution Facilities
Food distribution from the Jared S. Hecktkopf Community Food Bank, referred to as Jared’s Food Bank, has more than doubled over the past two years. In 2019, SPFC distributed 11.9 million pounds of food. In 2021, SPFC distributed 20.4 million pounds. SPFC is expanding capacity with the addition of a warehouse, on 22nd Avenue South, triple the size of Jared’s Food Bank, to allow the organization to grow its operation and to reach even more partners who are under-served.
Expansion of Food Distribution Methods, Locations, and Hours
SPFC provided food for over 20,000 individuals in February 2022, a double-digit percentage increase over this time last year. While the need to serve more people than ever is persistent, so is the need to provide increased choice and access.
For safety and to accommodate the significantly increased volume in households served, the SPFC We Help FRESH Pantry has operated out of the organization’s parking lot at its downtown location over the last two years. On June 6, the FRESH Pantry will return to an indoor “client choice” model, allowing individuals to select the items they receive.
SPFC will also continue to provide drive-through options for busy working families or those who may not be able to easily access the indoor FRESH pantry. Also on June 6, SPFC will relocate its drive-through to two new locations:
Jared S. Hechtkopf Community Food Bank
3115 44th Ave N, St. Pete 33714
Tuesday and Friday 2- 6p.m.
22nd Street South Revitalization Area
2198 15th Avenue South St. Pete 33712
Monday and Wednesday 2-6 p.m.
The 22nd Street drive-through location is in a building owned by Elihu and Carolyn Brayboy (Mr. and Mrs. B), the owners of Chief’s Creole Café and leaders of their own nonprofit called Making Opportunities Materialize. Mr. B shares, “Mrs. B and I were raised in South St. Pete, and we really have a heart for the people of this area. This new location is in a food desert, and it is an honor to partner with St. Pete Free Clinic to bring healthy food options to this neighborhood. This one step can make life less stressful by providing access to those in this neighborhood. They no longer have to leave the neighborhood and find their way downtown to get food! We are excited to be a part of the 22nd Street South Revitalization area, also known as the Deuces.”
Continued Expansion of Mobile We Help FRESH Pantry Locations
In addition to expanded locations, hours, and drive-through options, SPFC will continue to offer additional mobile pantries in underserved areas in mid and north Pinellas County, ensuring all food and nutrition insecure areas in the county have consistent access to quality food.
Sheryl Zeitler is Communications Director of the St. Pete Free Clinic. To learn more about SPFC, visit www.thespfc.org.