Oil spill a ‘slow moving disaster’; Bay Area Food Bank meets rising needs

Saturday, June 5, 2010
By Paul Martin

By Roy Hoffman
June 05, 2010

The Bay Area Food Bank is expanding its mobile pantry program to reach out to people suffering from economic problems caused by the oil spill.

Its pantry truck is scheduled to visit Bayou La Batre and Biloxi, on June 17 and June 22, respectively, partnering in both locales with Boat People SOS.

The traveling pantry will make repeated trips to these areas and add new points as needed, according to Jennifer Whiddon, programs coordinator for the Food Bank.

The mobile pantry is already visiting Grand Bay, Pascagoula and other coastal communities.

In contrast to hurricanes such as Katrina and Ivan, the oil spill is a “a slow moving disaster” in terms of its economic impact on families, said David Reaney, the Food Bank executive director.

At the Food Bank’s headquarters in Theodore, Reaney walked among ceiling-high shelves stacked with pallets of food to be distributed.

“I see this,” he said of the oil spill financial effects, “as long, protracted in length.”

Some of those affected by lost jobs and wages will be more evident than others, said Reaney. “It’s easy to identify fishing families,” he said. “But what about hotel workers in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores?”

The Bay Area Food Bank’s mission, Reaney said, is to help meet needs in 24 counties across Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi.

With those needs growing quickly, the bank seeks contributions of canned goods and money, as well as hands-on volunteers.

The bulk of the Food Bank’s offerings, he said, already come from contributions made by area retailers: Sam’s Club, Walmart, Target, Winn-Dixie, Fresh Market and Publix.

Additional supplies, including canned goods, which have no expiration date, are received from community and religious groups.

Individuals interested in offering help can:

•Take canned goods and other non-perishables to drop boxes at Good Will centers, or directly to the Food Bank’s headquarters.
•Check www.bayareafoodbank.org to learn how to contribute financially.

A $500 contribution, said Reaney, will enable more than 5,000 pounds of food to be distributed, reaching 100-120 families. The funds cover the cost of drivers, fuel and maintenance of the Food Bank’s 10 refrigerated trucks.

Volunteers will catalog food contributions at the Theodore headquarters and box up and track supplies.

Outside the headquarters building, trucks donated by Walmart and other companies — among them Kraft Foods, ConAgra Foods, Dupont — wait to be packed up and driven to distribution points.

The mobile pantry – donated by Walmart, Reaney said — has a refrigerated trailer and sliding side doors that can be opened directly onto the street for access.

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