As part of Feeding Tampa Bay’s COVID-19 relief efforts, the Glazer Vision Foundation has donated the use of its Mobile Vision Clinic to aid in transporting meals to those in need.
“Nobody got up and said I’m going to lose my job today and be in a food line tomorrow. It’s not something people ever think they have to do.”
Unfortunately, that’s the reality for an increasing number of people in the Tampa Bay area that Feeding Tampa Bay President and CEO Thomas Mantz has seen in recent weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. His organization is now tasked with meeting a greater need for food support than ever before, with requests up over 400% in the last month. Between 68-70% of those people in need of support have never been in a food line before. Fifty-seven percent of them have lost jobs recently.
Some of those people are homebound, like the elderly. Some of those people are families with children. Getting food to them in neighborhoods isn’t easily done in a 26-foot truck or tractor trailer Feeding Tampa Bay normally uses to drop off food to over 500 charitable partners across 10 counties in the region.
“One of our challenges was transportation and getting food into the community,” said Mantz. “We had been borrowing vans from people and other folks had donated use of theirs. We had been renting them. The Glazer family came back and said we have this wonderful vehicle, could you use this? It’s certainly a unique piece of equipment but the answer is yes, we can.”
That piece of equipment is the Glazer Vision Foundation’s Mobile Vision Clinic, usually used to bring eye exams and glasses to underserved children around the Tampa Bay area via the school system. Now that schools are closed, it is being used to help deliver food through Feeding Tampa Bay initiatives. It accompanied a sizable donation from the Glazer Family of five million meals to support relief efforts in an all-encompassing way.
“It’s critically important,” Mantz continued. “It’s part of an overall terrific response. It’s not just writing a check, it’s finding different ways to help. It’s committing to the issue and diving in with us.”
The amount of meals Feeding Tampa Bay distributes into the community on a normal month at this time of year is usually about five million. This month, they will be attempting to double their efforts to 10 million. Groceries are the most common way for the organization to reach families and as such, they have a mega pantry set up across from Raymond James Stadium every Saturday at Hillsborough Community College. The pantry will send families home with three-to-four days worth of food in the form of a 50-to-60-pound box. But then there are groups like senior citizens, who have little use for groceries and rather, need fully cooked meals they can store for themselves in their residence or senior center. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Feeding Tampa Bay was cooking about 500 meals a day. With the help of restaurant partners, they are now cooking over 8,500 meals a day for seniors and others that are homebound.
“This is exactly where the RV comes in,” Mantz said of the Mobile Vision Clinic. “We can fill it up with food and drive it place to place, drop off meals, take it back, do it again.
“It’s just one part of their response,” Mantz continued. “The Glazer family came in and said what do you need and how can we help. WE talked about the pressures, the concerns, the challenges that we have. The very first thing they did was provide a significant level of support financially to food relief. As we talked about that, they said what else can we do?”
In addition to the five million meals and use of the Mobile Vision Clinic given to Feeding Tampa Bay by the Glazer Family, another significant donation was made by one of the Buccaneers’ newest acquisitions in Tom Brady and his wife, Gisele. The couple donated an additional 750,000 meals to the organization almost immediately following Brady’s signing with Tampa Bay after spending two decades in New England. That donation, just like the Glazer family donation, not only provided meals but it also increased awareness around the cause. It helps tell the story of the organization and its efforts, as Mantz puts it.
“I think when families like the Glazers, organizations like the Bucs or somebody like Tom Brady make a donation, the much greater value is that people go, oh hey, ok, folks of this caliber are making significant contributions, it must be important, it must be necessary and Feeding Tampa Bay must be trustworthy,” Mantz said. “That for us is just a tremendous gift.”