Food bank rolls in to meet need in Everglades City

A refuge for the hungry is still in shambles more than three months after Irma.

Everglades Community Church, where food distribution used to take place on a regular basis for more than 80 families, is likely to remain closed until the beginning of February, according to its pastor, the Rev. Bob Wallace.

“Everything’s gone,” Wallace said. “We lost our organ, our piano.”

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The Harry Chapin Food Bank is helping make up for the loss of the community resource with its mobile food pantry, which operates weekly, less than half a mile away at the River Wilderness Villas.

“We’re seeing a larger-than-average amount of need,” food bank CEO Richard LeBer said. “Last year we did about 20 mobile pantries a month across Southwest Florida. This year, we did 72 in the month immediately following Irma.”

About 80 to 85 families visit the mobile pantry, compared to about 100 who went to the church before the storm, organizers said. Sandra Deampire showed up Wednesday and said storm damage to her home left her looking for help.

“This is the first time that I’ve ever used the food bank before,” she said. “I’m on a limited income and did not have insurance on my house.”

She’s not alone, Wallace said.

“A lot of people lost everything,” he said. “They lost their homes, they lost their clothing, they lost their car, they lost their food.

“What we try to tell people is, ‘This isn’t it. This isn’t the end.'”

The food pantry is slated to keep showing up in Everglades City until the church is rebuilt. Click here for a calendar showing when and where the mobile food pantry makes its stops.

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