POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – After 30 years of serving the community, the largest food bank in Polk County has closed.
Agape Food Bank stopped operations at the end of December. According to a company spokesperson, the organization is no longer accepting donations and they are allowing agencies to pick up the remaining food until it runs out.
The charity feeds around 600 elderly, disabled, and people in emergency situations every month.
“I was shocked!” said Mildred McMillon who runs Faith In Action North Lakeland. She showed News Channel 8 her dwindling supply of canned corn and other vegetables.
McMillon normally runs over to Agape to restock, but now she must turn to other local food banks to avoid driving to Tampa to pick up food from Feeding Tampa Bay.
“It will be a challenge,” McMillon said. “My biggest concern is getting fresh stuff. We relied on Agape for fresh fruits, vegetables, breads.”
Feeding Tampa Bay has already started operations to cover Polk County, but they will not have a physical location in the county.
A spokesperson with Feeding Tampa Bay told News Channel 8 that they are currently working out the logistics of the transition. Agencies will be able to pick up food at the Feeding Tampa Bay location in Tampa, but they will primarily be delivering the food to Polk County. Some agencies will get direct deliveries, others will be able to pick up the food at various hubs that will be designated around the county.
Agape Food Bank posted this statement on their website about the closure:
Agape Food Bank has provided a beautiful food ministry in Polk County for more than 30 years. Over the last two years, Catholic Charities has been studying the needs of the underserved in Polk County. As a result, Catholic Charities will cease operations at the food bank by the end of December 2017 in order to refocus our food ministry where it is needed most.
Picking up the food bank role in Polk and Hardee counties will be Feeding Tampa Bay, a nationally recognized hunger relief organization and part of the Feeding America network. The food assistance programs in these counties that are currently supported by Agape Food Bank will continue to serve those in need under the supervision of Feeding Tampa Bay.
As part of this transition, Catholic Charities will open two Agape Mission Markets in Polk County (locations to be determined) that will also partner with Feeding Tampa Bay. These markets will mirror our Mission Market in Orlando where families can choose what they need from fresh fruits and vegetables to proteins.
In addition, the SmilePak program, supported by Publix, Mosaic and the GiveWell Community Foundation, will continue to serve children through the end of the school year.
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