'We’re really needed:′ Ocoee food bank prepares for Thanksgiving meal giveaway

Southeastern Food Bank distributing food to 1,200 families

Volunteers prep to help families in need at the Southeastern Food Bank Warehouse in Ocoee.

OCOEE, Fla. – Food banks and food pantries are an essential resource, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. A west Orange County food bank is continuing to serve the community as it prepares for the holidays.

Forklifts unloaded pallets of food and volunteers unboxed canned goods, pastas and cereals inside the Southeastern Food Bank warehouse in Ocoee on Saturday.

Volunteer Tammy Schuster described the process.

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“This is all being sorted into categories and then later on they will pull from these sorted boxes so there is a nice assortment in each box to be delivered to families in need,” Schuster said.

Volunteers spent Saturday morning helping the food bank prepare for its “Thanksgiving Food for Families” event.

Founder and CEO Mark Anthony said they will help thousands of families.

“We’re sorting and packing for the 1,200 families for west Orange County that we’ve been doing for 28 years,” Anthony said.

Anthony said for almost three decades, they’ve served thousands of families, but the food bank became a huge lifeline during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Instead of doing two semi loads a week, we’re doing two to three semi loads a day. That’s a big, big change,” Anthony said. “We’re working real hard to put that out all over Central Florida and the state.”

Anthony wants to make sure families in need have food for the holidays. The food bank is relying on volunteers, like Schuster and her church group from the Horizon West campus with First Baptist Church of Winter Garden.

The pandemic is changing their usual boxing and sorting event. It was moved from a local high school to the warehouse, but Schuster said the driving force is still the same.

“It’s just nice to be able to come together as a group and say there is something we can tangibly, physically do,” she said.

On Thanksgiving morning, volunteers will deliver the boxed food to families everyone doing their part to make sure no one goes hungry.

“We’re important, but now we’re really needed. I don’t think the need is actually going away, honestly,” Anthony said.

Anthony said the families receiving the “Thanksgiving Food for Families” boxed meals have already been identified.

Click here for more information on how you can volunteer with Southeastern Food Bank or to find food.

About the Author:

Amanda Castro, a proud UCF alum, joined the News 6 team in November 2015 and was promoted to weekend morning anchor in April 2016. Go Knights!