IRB food pantry

Beach Community Food Bank Volunteer Gail Wilson, right, helps Krystal Hillman and her infant from Largo select food items from the food bank. Clients are allowed to get food every two weeks.

INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — For more than 10 years, the Beach Community Food Pantry has been helping feed people in need from a wide area of Pinellas County.

The Food Pantry is located in the Calvary Episcopal Church and three times a week those less fortunate can come to the pantry and pick up food that they cannot afford to buy.

Connie Curran, who has been involved in the pantry for nine years, is now the director of the operation. She said the demand continues.

“Yes there is a demand,” she said. “It is a demand not only for residents of Indian Rocks Beach and Largo, but for people from all over. Anybody with a low income and having a hard time meeting their needs can come here to get help.”

Curran said no one is asked to prove they are in need, if they show up they get help.

The only restriction is that people can only get help once every two weeks.

“There are repeat people who come to get food,” she said. “If you are standing in line then we are here to give it to you. We are here to help the people who need it.”

Curran said she is particularly pleased with the way the Food Pantry distributes the food, calling it "free shopping."

“People can pick what they want,” she said. “This way they are getting something they like and won’t discard it or throw it away. This way they will use it because they are picking it out.”

Included are fresh fruit and vegetables. It all comes from a variety of sources.

David Kline, former director of the Food Pantry and now a volunteer, listed the diverse variety of sources for the food.

He said they get meat and some produce from RCS Pinellas County and a lot of food from Feeding Tampa Bay.

“We buy our own, we’re involved in Publix Food for Sharing program. There are various food drives, community donations and programs involving students,” he said.

That might seem like a lot of help. However, there is that insatiable demand that has to be met every month. Nearly one thousand meals are provided to those in need.

And things don’t always go smoothly.

“An illustration of that is the most recent government shutdown,” said Kline. “That caused a lot of anxiety in the world of the temporary needy and our food resources were redirected and that meant we didn’t get the food we normally get.”

Yet Kline said it showed what a community can do as IRB and other local communities held extra food drives and private citizens got involved so the demand was met.

Private citizens are also needed on an ongoing basis as volunteers. Regularly 30 volunteers are needed for various jobs. Those jobs range from helping out at the pantry on distribution day or driving to the various places to pick up food.

The demand for volunteers is never ending.

The food pantry was founded by Carole Beaucham, who as a member of Calvary Episcopal Church, was there 10 years ago when a man wandered in and asked for help. He needed something to eat. The church people got him some food and then realized they should do more than that, and the Food Pantry was born. It is still located in the church where it began.

“We have maybe 500 square feet of space here in a section of the church which is dedicated to the Food Pantry,” said Kline. “We are totally on site here at Calvary Episcopal.”

Helping at the Food Pantry can be a rewarding and fulfilling activity. It can also be a sad one.

Curran said she is often upset by what she sees every week.

“I do feel sad; I’ll be honest, it does sadden me that there is such a need,” she said. “Elderly people bother me the most, they come to Florida for retirement and they get squeezed out and they need to make their money stretch. I’ve heard people say they have eaten pet food and I say ‘no … no … no.’”

“I get saddened. There are also elderly people who are raising their grandchildren and they just can’t afford it, they come here for help,” she said.

The Beach Community Food Pantry is located in the Calvary Episcopal Church at 1615 First St. in Indian Rocks Beach. Their phone number is 727-595-2374.

Hours of operation are from 10 a.m. to noon on Mondays and Wednesdays and 5-7 p.m. on Thursday evening.

Fish fry benefits the Food Pantry

Another way people can help the food pantry is by attending a fish fry at Crabby Bill’s on April 13 from 5-7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at Calvary’s main desk Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m to 1 p.m. or by contacting David Kline at 727-418-1673. Tickets are $10 prior to the event or $12 at the door. 

Crabby Bill’s will once again be serving a large filet of lightly battered whitefish, french fries, cole slaw and a roll. A cash bar with soft drinks and beer will also be available.