Drive-through food pantry helps Parrish residents get by

Struggling families in Manatee County are getting a helping hand from a church congregation operating a drive-through food pantry. Volunteers said they have seen the need grow from a few dozen to hundreds in recent weeks.

Parrish United Methodist Church held a drive-through food pantry Monday, giving away from donated goods from large companies, local farmers, and members of the community.

For the families, it’s a trip worth leaving the house for.

“My husband’s got reduced hours at work, my son who is 20 has been completely laid off and has not been able to get unemployment. I also have elderly parents who haven’t been able to get out and get groceries at all,” said Christine Wanat of Bradenton.

Wanat and hundreds of others are leaning on Parrish United Methodist Church to help put food on their families’ tables.

“I actually came here on Saturday as well,” said Wanat. “With what I got then, I was able to help my family, my grandson’s family, and two other families and delivered five meals to homeless people.”

On Monday evening, volunteers gave away meat, eggs, milk, vegetables and other types of donated food, checking off as much as they could for people who need the helping hand.  

“We’ve always had a food pantry. Our food pantry has just really kicked into overdrive since all of this has happened,” said Lori Racky, of Parrish United Methodist Church’s food ministry.

Jim and Lori Racky help organize the effort, telling FOX 13 they went from a few dozen families to hundreds of people.

“Before this started, we were averaging 30 to 50 families every two weeks. Now we run since we started outside, went from 95 vehicles to 115 to 421 to 891,” said Jim Racky. He said Monday’s food drive was leftover food from the pantry drive-thru on Saturday.

The number of people in need continues to grow and the church relies on the community’s kind heart to make it work.

“The fact that the community is still willing to give whether it’s monetary or food donation, they still give even though for a lot of folks without a job it’s hard to give,” said Jim Racky.

While the interactions were quick and limited, they are packed with gratefulness.

“I thanked them so much, I thanked them and I appreciate it,” said Ralf Meinzer of Ellenton, who is depending on the food he picked up to get him through the next two weeks while he waits for a paycheck for a new job. “I wanted them to stay safe and I’m just so thankful.”

The church is organizing another pantry drive-thru on May 9.