Feeding Tampa Bay meals to-go help families get by during pandemic

Feeding Tampa Bay has supplied thousands of meals to Bay Area families during uncertain times.

For single-parent Fredrick Smith, COVID-19 has put a big strain on his budget. 

"Been greatly affected financially," he said. "I'm a share ride driver. I've been greatly affected by the COVID virus as far as the business has  dropped drastically."

That's why Fredrick is so thankful for Feeding Tampa Bay's meals to-go program. Every Thursday, volunteers supply free meals to the community.

"I think it's an awesome organization," said Fredrick. "I don't know how a lot of families in this community would survive without them. It's helping us to bridge over these difficult times."

The organization hit a milestone this month.

"We hit the 315,000-meal mark, since the start of COVID-19, and we distribute among more than 80 different partners here in the community," explained Feeding Tampa Bay Chief Impact Officer Mandy Cloninger.

One of those partners is United Way Suncoast. They run the Operation Graduate Center in Clearwater. 

"When we realize that families need this food support we contacted our partners at Feeding Tampa Bay to open up a few distribution sites like this," said United Way Suncoast CEO Jessica Muroff.

Cloninger says the needs are staggering.

"It's not slowing down. There are more people who need our care right now who are struggling with hunger and food insecurity," she said.

Clearwater Police Officer James Frederick Jr. has seen the need first-hand and decided to help out.

"We drop off meals to them that can't get out. A lot of our elderly. A lot of folks that don't have cars and so we just kind of help out the community and do our part," he said.

It's a part that Fredrick and his family are so thankful for.