Metro Ministries' 'Inside the Box' hits new heights

Kelly Ring reports

- The kitchen on the Tampa campus of Metropolitan Ministries is bustling as chefs prepare gourmet sandwiches, salads, and treats.

"We roast our own meats, we make our own sauces and dressings; everything is fresh," said Metropolitan Ministries' senior director of food services, Cliff Barsi.

This is part of the charity's catering and restaurant business called "Inside the Box."

"We actually started the cafe first as a box-lunch catering business and then we added a cafe downtown and one on West Shore," explained Barsi.

The business is also taking off at Tampa International Airport. Travelers can pick up sandwiches and snacks from Inside the Box.  They call it "Grab and Gourmet."

"This is the community's airport.  To the extent that we can be a part of helping this community, we really want to do that," said Tampa International Airport's CEO, Joe Lopano.

Airport retailer Stellar was a big part of getting "Inside the Box" on board at Tampa International.

Company president Susan Stackhouse says the little message of "Thank You" inside each package has delivered big rewards for Metropolitan Ministries.

"When people opened their package, they ate their sandwich, they read about the program, and started making donations, arrange for catering. So that's been an extra benefit we didn't expect," said Stackhouse.

"That's just a great message for passengers to know that this community cares about the homeless and there's a need," added Barsi.

Inside the Box cafes are located at 505 N. Tampa Street and 1715 N. West Shore Blvd.

For more information about Metropolitan Ministries and Inside the Box, click over to www.metromin.org.

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