News-Sun photo by KATARA SIMMONS In addition to needing more volunteers, the Heartland Food Reservoir needs people to check their can goods and box labels to see if they qualify for the Child Hunger Ends Here program. For every code entered by Aug. 31, ConAgra Foods will donate the monetary equivalent of one meal to Feeding America.
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published: Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Heartland Food Reservoir continues to provide
By SAMANTHA GHOLAR
SEBRING - Over the past few years, the Heartland Food Reservoir has become more than just a place to pick up food for those in need; it's become a lifeline that touches the lives of thousands of people across the Heartland.
The food bank works and operates with the help of volunteers and local grocery stores. Food used by the reservoir comes from right here in the county and goes directly into the hands of the needy.
"There's local stores here and a couple in Wauchula that give food to us so that we can stock our shelves," said volunteer Marjorie Blanda. "Why throw it away when we can take it?"
Blanda says that the food bank receives food items from all three of the county's Publix stores, both the Sweetbay in Lake Placid and Sebring, the Sebring and Avon Park Walmart, both the Lake Placid and Sebring Winn Dixie as well as the Wauchula Winn Dixie and Walmart stores.
Salvaged foods are delivered to the reservoir on weekly basis where it is sorted and stored in the food bank warehouse for purchase.
Mary Foy, food bank volunteer, says that the continued donations from all the stores has helped put food in the hands of many people throughout Highlands and surrounding counties on a regular basis.
"We work closely with 26 churches in the county. The food they purchase goes to the churches' pantries and then they hand it out how they see fit. We also work closely with the (Highlands County) Coalition for the Homeless and Ridge Arc," Foy said.
The food bank is a member of the Feeding America Inc. organization that continues to fight the nation's hunger crisis.
Through Feeding America, Foy was able to acquire a Feeding America grant that funded the Backpack program, which filled backpacks with food for three of Sebring's most needy elementary schools earlier this year.
"The schools with the highest free and reduced lunch students were targeted - Memorial, Fred Wild and Woodlawn. The kids received meals to take home with items such as canned pasta, peanut butter and jelly, juice, etc."
Foy is looking to continue the program when school starts in the fall.
"There is a little bit of food and some funds left over that will roll over into this year that we are going to use for that," Foy said.
The program fed approximately 300 local students.
Aside from assisting in the lives of local individuals and families, the food bank serves as a go-to point for a number of different entities outside the borders of Highlands County.
Ashley Carter and Emily Jamison, Lake Wales residents and instructors at the Heart Institute, made their weekly trip to the Heartland Food reservoir in search of the regular items they use at their institute, which simulates a third world living environment for students.
"We come here once a week from Lake Wales; this is the closest one to us. This place has been such a blessing for us. I'm able to come here and get all the important stuff we need that we don't grow on our own and spend a small amount of money. I spend about $40 a week and it gets us so much," Carter said.
The food bank volunteers, like Wendy Roth and Linda Busby, have been working at the reservoir for years and continue to come back each week to serve the community.
"There is a tremendous need for this in this community. There's lots of people who would definitely go without food if it weren't for the food bank," Roth said.
"It is definitely needed and that makes what we do here so rewarding," Busby said.
Currently, only six full-time volunteers work at the food reservoir, but Foy and Blanda are hoping the summer hours will bring in more. The busiest and best days to help would be Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Donations from businesses and civic organizations are always welcome to help sustain the reservoir. Anyone interested in volunteering or donating may contact the reservoir at 385-7885. Donations may be mailed to P.O. Box 7815 Sebring, FL 33872.
Other initiatives the Heartland Food Reservoir is currently participating in include the ConAgra Foods project. Consumers who purchase specially marked foods products that have a red thumb tack on the labels (Reddi Whip, Pam, Peter Pan Peanut Butter, Hunts Tomato Sauce, Chef Boyardee products, etc.) can make a huge difference. Just log on to www.childhungerendshere.com/ and type in the numerical code on the label. By following the next screen to the "Do even more" tab and typing in the reservoir's zipcode "33870", 12 cents of every product will go directly to the Heartland Food Bank.
The program is ongoing through Aug. 31. For every dollar raised, the food bank is able to purchase $12 worth of food that will go to needy families, children and individuals in the community.
For more information contact the Heartland Food Reservoir at 385-7885.
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