Pasco News

Mobile pantry could reach hungry Pasco people in isolated areas

NEW PORT RICHEY — If needy people can’t come to get free food, then the free food should go to them, Volunteer Way CEO Lester Cypher believes.

He is proposing that the food bank add a mobile pantry, since the nonprofit charity has two refrigerated trucks.

Cypher plans to sit down with Commissioner Kathryn Starkey this week about fleshing out the concept, he said last Thursday. He also advocates expanding bus service.

With some 20,000 mouths to feed every month, Volunteer Way gives away a lot of food from its base of operations, 7820 Congress St..

The food bank ships supplies to many food pantries at area churches or other charities that might be closer to needy residents.

Even so, many people still go hungry because they live in isolated pockets of Pasco County, Cypher thinks. Often those areas, such as sections of Moon Lake Road, lack bus service.

In addition, the new warehouse for Volunteer Way is nearing completion a few blocks north of the existing base, Cypher reports.

“We’ve got lines out the door every day,” Cypher said about the current overcrowded location. Often the food bank must turn away people seeking help because the agency runs out of food.

The much larger warehouse with 10,000 square feet at 8601 Congress St. would mean Volunteer Way can help more people. The 6.89 acres also allows Volunteer Way to grow more of its own food.

The first phase is done with shrubbery and other landscaping planted Dec. 27. Cypher expects to get a certificate of occupancy in the near future from the county.

By the end of January, crews should finish planting fruit trees, Cypher added. The food bank will harvest its own peaches, pears, kumquats, bananas and other fruits.

Within a month or two, the second phase will finish the office space inside the facility.

Construction of the new facility is nearing completion. Cypher originally thought Volunteer Way might move into its new digs by the end of 2011.

“I’m persistent; I don’t quit,” Cypher said with a hearty laugh about his errant prediction.

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