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St. Petersburg Free Clinic's New Plan To Feed More People

Pinellas County has nearly 150,000 people who sometimes don’t know where their next meal is coming from, according to the group Feeding America.

They are known as being food insecure.

The St. Petersburg Free Clinic, non-profit organization that provides food, shelter and healthcare assistance, is expanding its efforts to help those hungry residents.

Gina Ruiz, the director of communications for the Free Clinic, said the problem hits close to home.

“We often say at the Free Clinic that we are 'serving our neighbors in need. So many people don't realize that it might just be your next door neighbor who is suffering from these conditions,” Ruiz said.

She also says that one in four children go hungry in Pinellas.

The clinic helps to feed around 60,000 hungry residents per month with their current food bank. The volume of food donated has doubled in recent years, from 1.6 million pounds in 2010 to an expected three million pounds this year.

With the new facility, Ruiz says the clinic estimates to once again double their distribution to around six million pounds of food within the next five years.

Renovations on the warehouse will delay the opening until 2017, but in return they will be able to better store what they are calling ‘ugly produce.’

Ugly produce is produce that does not fit grocery store presentation, and is instead sold separate from grocery stores at lower rates.

“We are able to obtain this produce for much cheaper, around 10 to 15 cents per pound,” said Ruiz, “And we will be able to provide this free-of-charge to our partner agencies and those in the community.”

The clinic works with 65 partners consisting of local food banks, community centers and churches to distribute the food.

A donation from Bonnie Hechtkopf, chair of Kobie Marketing, enabled the Free Clinic to purchase the $820,000 warehouse and schedule renovations for the facility. She will be dedicating the building to her late husband and calling it the Jared S. Hechtkopf Community Food Bank. The 14,000-square-foot warehouse is located on 3115 44th Ave. N in Lealman.

The warehouse is expected to open early next year, and until then, people in need of the clinic’s food services should go to the downtown St. Petersburg location at 863 Third Ave. N.

Devin Rodriguez is theWUSFStephen Noble News intern for summer 2016.
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