Food drive stocks pantry shelves

HOLT, Fla., May 18, 2022—Saturday’s national Stamp Out Hunger food drive was very good for Holt.

Mail delivery letter carriers filled four post office bins with plastic grocery bags full of food donated by the communities of Holt, Baker and Milligan.

It took six volunteers more than four hours to sort and stack 2,400 pounds of can and dried goods, stocking the shelves at the Holt Community Food Pantry.

“Thank you, community,” said volunteer Holly Booe afterwards. Donations such as this help stretch the pantry’s budget further.

Hundreds of plastic grocery bags bulging with food items from Saturday’s drive wait for volunteers to sort and stack each one.

According to pantry manager Jackie Tyler, Saturday’s donations were a good representation of the kinds of foods needed, such as fruits, vegetables, soups and canned meats.

While shelves are filled to overflowing now, it won’t be long before items begin to dwindle, however.

“What we got during the drive will last about a month,” said Tyler, due to the number of people needing a little help with groceries.

The pantry receives food donations throughout the year from Destin Harvest. Food is also purchased each week by the pantry from Feeding the Gulf Coast, a member organization of Feeding America.

New hours

The pantry served 125 families last month, helping to feed 332 people in the local area. That was with the doors open only two Wednesdays a month.

During the pandemic, pantry operating hours were cut back to one day a month because of the large amount of food available throughout the community. It expanded hours to twice a month last year.

Beginning in June, the pantry will go back to being open every Wednesday.

Pantry customers are allowed one visit per month. Now, with doors opening every Wednesday beginning next month, there will be more options available and everyone won’t feel the need to all come at the same time. Oftentimes during operating hours, the line of cars stretches from U.S. Highway 90 two blocks to the pantry door.

As word spreads that the pantry is returning to pre-pandemic hours, “people hopefully won’t have to sit in line and wait for us,” said Tammy Raymo, who is one of the volunteers who checks customers in as they arrive.

And it will be less stress on the volunteers who pack bags of meats, dairy and dry goods, and deliver them to the waiting cars, according to Tyler.

Saturday’s national food drive was the first since the pandemic put everything on hold in 2020.

More than 45 million Americans, including 15 million children, experience food insecurity and rely on food donations, according to the National Letter Carriers of America.

The annual Stamp Out Hunger food drive is their way of giving back to the community.

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