MANATEE — A Tampa food bank will be able to provide 328,000 more meals to the needy, including some in Manatee County, after the Mosaic Company pledged $500 for every home run hit by a Tampa Bay Rays player during the regular baseball season.
The Rays hit 160 home runs, according to their website, and Mosaic is in the process of donating $82,000 to Feeding America Tampa Bay as part of its “Home Runs for Food” partnership with the team.
No, the math doesn’t work out.
Mosaic Public Affairs Manager Russell Schweiss explained: “We presented the check at the last home game, so we padded the amount to accommodate for any home runs that may happen in the couple of road games that took place after that.”
“Feeding America will get $82,000, regardless,” he added.
The Rays are into postseason play now, with a game slated for tonight at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.
The Rays lost the first two games of the American League Division Series, but managed to come back with two wins against the Texas Rangers. Tonight’s game will decide which team plays the New York Yankees for the division championship.
“Thanks to this unique program, Feeding America Tampa Bay has added and expanded hunger relief programs throughout our 10-county service area to increase the availability of food assistance in needy neighborhoods,” said Pat Rogers, the food bank’s executive director.
“Mosaic’s generous donation will also help us meet the growing need among the new poor — families hardest hit by the area’s stagnant unemployment rates,” she added.
“We are grateful to Mosaic and the Rays for teaming up to help us end hunger in our community.”
One in six Americans is at risk of hunger, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report last year on food insecurity.
From 2007 to 2008, the number of Americans considered food insecure increased by 13 million, it said.
Feeding America annually provides food for 37 million Americans, including 409,000 residents of the Tampa Bay area, officials said.
The food bank’s supplies are donated, but the cost to distribute and transport it is expensive, Rogers said Monday.
She figured that each dollar donated would equal four meals, estimating that the food bank could provide about 328,000 more meals as a result of the donation.
Locally, The Food Bank of Manatee, affiliated with Meals on Wheels PLUS, is a Feeding America distribution site in Manatee, Rogers said.
Manatee County is also seeing many more needy people as a result of the recession, said Kristen Theisen, vice president of development for the Food Bank of Manatee.
“The economy has definitely impacted the food bank and our community,” she said. “We have tripled the amount of food we’ve distributed in the past three years alone, clearly a factor of the economy and job loss.”
She was thankful for the help, saying, “Especially, towards the holidays, we want to try to make sure everybody who needs help can receive the assistance.”
Although overall donations have not been quite as high as in previous years, “We are encouraged that people are still giving,” she said.
“We can all understand a little better how it feels to be in need.”
The Mosaic Company, headquartered near Tampa, is the world’s leading producer of phosphate crop nutrients through its Florida-based subsidiary, Mosaic Fertilizer, LLC.