BRADENTON -- People began standing in line Tuesday morning in the heat and humidity as volunteers were unloading food from a truck from Tampa.
By the end of the morning, enough food to feed 300 needy families had been given away at the Gospel Tabernacle Church on Seventh Avenue East.
Volunteers from the Food Bank of Manatee, along with Feeding America Tampa Bay, loaded boxes with fresh vegetables, potatoes, meat, bread and more to distribute to the waiting crowd.
Debi Kreft had been standing about 45 minutes in a shady spot in the church parking lot.
"There's not too many things I would stand in line this long for," she said. She called the food giveaway "tremendous."
"My family has handicaps. It really helps," she said.
Cindy Sloan, director of the Food Bank of Manatee, said this is the first time the Tampa Bay organi
zation delivered food to Manatee County.
"We're praying we can do this once a month at different churches around the county," Sloan said. "We want to contribute to feed our neighbors."
Unemployed security guard Leroy Shepperd said he's been out of work two years. "There's just no work anywhere," he said.
It's been hard on his family.
"We're struggling to make it. There's no choice but to use food pantries," Shepperd said. "Life's been a real struggle."
Sloan said demand for food hasn't slowed in the improving economy. Better times haven't yet trickled down to the county's poorest residents.
"It seems that for the low-income people, things are pretty tough," she said. "I think what we're dealing with now is a working poor society. People are working but a lot of employers are going part-time, so they don't have to pay the benefits. People can't make it on part-time wages, especially when they have children."
Felicia Bopp and her mother, Pamela, were busy putting potatoes into plastic shopping bags for other volunteers to load into boxes.
"We volunteer at The Source church and we were asked to come here today," Pamela Bopp said. "We love helping people."
It was the same story for Janette Scutti of BB&T Insurance. She was there, "just to help out the community," she said.
Carol Hargrave, in charge of the food pantry at Gospel Tabernacle, said the church offers a soup kitchen from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. each Friday where they give out food as part of the network of locations affiliated with Food Bank of Manatee.
For information on food giveaways and available assistance, call the Food Bank of Manatee at 941-747-4655.
Jim DeLa, East Manatee editor, can be reached at 941-745-7011. Follow him on Twitter @JimDeLaBH.