PASCO COUNTY, FL — When you look around Pasco County, it's easy to see the effects the coronavirus has had on our way of life. What's less visible is the number of people who are now worrying about having enough to eat.
Feeding America, the nation's largest hunger relief organization, says coronavirus-related economic crises could push the number of food insecure Americans to 54 million by year's end. That's 17 million more Americans than who were food insecure before the pandemic. For some, it's a matter of running short on grocery money before the week is out and eating a lot of boxed pasta and rice dishes.
For others, food insecurity means real hunger.
In Pasco County, 37,446,000 people (13.8 percent of residents) were considered food insecure before the pandemic, according to Feeding America's "Map the Meal Gap" interactive study.
Job loss and other economic crises associated with the coronavirus could push the rate of food insecurity in Pasco County to 18.2 percent by the end of the year.
Feeding America, whose 200 member food banks include Feeding Tampa Bay, reports both higher demand for services and more need for volunteer and donor support.
Some food pantries and other services available in Pasco County are:
First Baptist Hudson, 14236 County Line Road, Hudson, 352-238-2336
The Glorious Experience, 7009 Hudson Ave., Hudson, 272-378-5885
Lacoochee Church of God, 20714 Center St., Lacoochee, 813-312-5126
Our Lady of the Rosary, 21345 Sanderson Road, Lacoochee, 352-339-1717
Eastlake Cathedral, 2348 Collier Parkway, Land O' Lakes, 813-494-2551
Our Lady Queen of Peace, 4820 Floramar Terrace, New Port Richey, 727-514-6274
Christian Secure Ministries, 5320 Shaw St., New Port Richey, 727-207-8041
St. Verena Coptic Church, 5609 U.S. 19, New Port Richey, 727-495-4555
New Port Richey Seventh-Day Adventist, 6140 Perrine Ranch Road, New Port Richey, 347-254-0636
The Church at Odessa, 6424 Trouble Creek Road, New Port Richey, 272-848-4567
Messengers of Hope, 1234 Gunn Highway, Odessa, 813-792-5400
King of Kings Lutheran Church, 14426 Black Lake Road, Odessa, 813-404-2300
Shepherd's Cupboard, 10337 U.S. 19, Port Richey, 727-389-4321
The Volunteer Way, 5320 Palmetto Road, Port Richey, 727-389-6484
St. James the Apostle, 8061 Congress St., Port Richey, 727-856-0262
St. Anthony of Padua, 8400 Monarch Drive, Port Richey, 727-869-3130
Shady Hills Family Center, 12144 Joe Herman Drive, San Antonio, 352-467-2602
Atonement Luthern Church, 15925 Greenglen Lane, Spring Hill, 727-389-3531
Life Church Wesley Chapel, 29617 State Road 54, Wesley Chapel, 813-973-2211
Voice of Truth, 4424 Gall Blvd., Zephyrhills, 813-714-3563
True Revival Churches Inc., 5320 1st St., Zephyrhills, 352-999-0523
New Life Worship Center, 7124 Forbes Road, Zephyrhills, 813-446-5132
Thomas Promise, 6542 Applewood Drive, Wesley Chapel, 813-782-0000
Food insecurity is often thought of as a "poor people's problem," but not all people living in poverty are food insecure, and not all food insecure people live in poverty. Food insecurity is a complex issue sandwiched in with other systemic challenges, including poverty, low wages, affordable housing shortages, chronic and acute health problems, high medical costs and social isolation.
"Our members are reporting that many of the people they're serving have never sought food assistance before," Kathryn Strickland, Feeding America's chief network officer, told Patch. "Some people are reporting that people who formerly donated to food banks are now seeking assistance."
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Patch has partnered with Feeding America to help raise awareness on behalf of the millions of Americans facing hunger. Feeding America, which supports 200 food banks across the country, estimates that in 2020, more than 54 million Americans will not have enough nutritious food to eat due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. This is a Patch social good project; Feeding America receives 100 percent of donations. Find out how you can donate in your community or find a food pantry near you.