ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- The staff who runs food pantries in St. Johns County, which serve hungry people, say they are struggling.
St. Francis House is one of the food pantries in St. Augustine that is really feeling the pinch. The director says they have less food and one of the reasons is the food bank in St. Johns County has less food.
Executive Director Judith Dembowski said there are more hungry people who come to St. Francis, but there is less food to give out.
"There have been weeks when we weren't able to provide food boxes to the community at all," she noted.
Many of the shelves in the pantry at St. Francis House are empty or nearly empty. Dembowski said it's because of lack of donations, less USDA food, and because the larger food bank in St. Augustine that supplies food to food pantries throughout St. Johns County is low on food too.
Frank Ormonde is the Executive Director of Nourishment Network which has the food bank in St. Johns County. He said the donations his organization picks up from retailers are down about 60 – 65 percent.
"Now we're only picking up from Publix. The other stores have told us they're going with the other food bank," Ormonde said.
The other food bank is in Jacksonville though, and food pantries tell First Coast News the drive up there uses gas money and may require refrigerated trucks, which many pantries don't have.
That other food bank in Jacksonville is with Feeding Northeast Florida. Bruce Ganger with Feeding Northeast Florida said it's working to enable agencies to pick up donated food directly from retail partners. He said the goal is to keep St. Johns County food in St. Johns County.
Also, Nourishment Network said it's seeking out other sources of food so that pantries will have more to hand out.
Meanwhile, Dembowski and her staff along with other volunteers at area food pantries are still trying to figure out how to stock the empty shelves in order to feed hungry people.
Dembowski added, "It's really hard when you've got people coming in and little ones clinging to their mother's skirts, and they're here to help feed their children. And you've got some canned green beans and spaghetti sauce and that's it."