Anna Maria food pantry helps hardest-hit workers during red tide

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Dead fish don't cover the beaches of Anna Maria anymore, but business owners say customers are still staying away.

When customers stay away, employees feel the impacts almost immediately.

The Roser Memorial Community Church Food Pantry said it's seen triple the amount of people coming in for help.

"My cable has been cut off. Our phones are about to be cut off. Right now I get to pay my electric bill," said Cindy Lane. 

She's a pre-cook at a restaurant on the beach. Lane said even before red tide arrived on Anna Maria Island, the perception drove customers away. 

Once it actually appeared, business disappeared. 

"It just got slowed and it stayed slow. It's just never picked up at all. Just a little, it actually got worse," she said. 

Now, feeding herself and her pets has become a challenged. 

"We had to count change to buy our cat some food this past week. I literally don't have money for groceries this week. I have bills to pay and I'm just getting 10 to 20 hours a week at work. It is not making ends meet at all," said Lane. 

She found out about the food pantry from a flyer at work. 

"It's a blessing. It really is like Mother Hubbard's cupboard at our house," she said. 

The food bank's chair, Jack Brennan said the team at the Rose Memorial Community Church Food Pantry will be there until everyone can get back on their feet. 

"Emotionally it's a little bit hard. Most of the people who are coming for the first time are crying. Some are embarrassed, some aren't. It's good to see that we can help," said Jack Brennan. 

The pantry has enough money to get it through October. Brennan hopes, by then, red tide will be gone and customers will come back.

"If we can have them trade a food bill for an electric bill or a water bill or rent, that's what we are in business for," he said. 

The Roser Food Pantry is located at 511 Pine Avenue in Anna Maria, Florida. The pantry is open on Wednesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m until 3 p.m.

Donations can be made at the Roser Church Administrative Office. For questions call (941)-778-0414.