Venice’s South County Food Pantry has just relocated to a larger location at 121 Warfield Ave.
“We’ve grown, and we needed more space,” says the nonprofit’s office manager and secretary Rosie Schroeder.
“Now we are in a stand-alone building, which is better for us because we have our own parking for our clients and don’t have to share space with other businesses. We also have more room for storage.”
Founded by Vera Wolf and the Emmanuel Lutheran Church in 1985, the Food Pantry today is supported by more than 25 different churches, many local businesses, individual donors and 180 volunteer staff. Serving Sarasota County from Osprey southward, the Food Pantry provides supplemental food to 400 families—about 1200 individual county residents—every month. According to the Sarasota County Planning Services Division, one in five county children lives below the poverty level, and Florida is in the top five for states with the highest child food insecurity in the nation.
Anyone can visit the food pantry and receive food as long as they live within the area; no financial proof is needed.
“People can come once a month,” Rosie says. “If they are homeless and don’t have a place to store food, then they can come once a week.”
Food is distributed to clients based on family size and includes staples such as cereal, bread, fruits and vegetables, milk, eggs, meat, bottled water, baked goods and soups. Volunteers behind a counter welcome clients and let the clients choose the items they need. The Food Pantry is a friendly, busy place where everyone is treated with dignity and respect.
“We have families, single parents, homeless people, folks who are out of work,” Rosie says. “We have people who come for a while, and then they get a job and they don’t need to come anymore. We have older people on fixed incomes who need a little help. People need supplemental food for all sorts of reasons.”
The South County Food Pantry is always in need of food and financial donations. Summers are a particular time of need.
“During season and at the end of season, we get a lot of donations from our snowbirds,” Rosie explains. “Things get quite a bit quieter during the summer, but residents here still need supplemental food.”
Volunteer Lise Mills is part of the Food Pantry’s outreach program.
“Our big fundraiser is a pancake breakfast on Nov. at Paradise Grill,” Lise says. “There will be raffles for gift baskets and a 50/50. Mary Beth Hansen is a big supporter; during July she collected food for us. She has signs at Paradise Grill that her customers can buy for $100, and the money is used here. Publix is a huge supporter. We have so many wonderful supporters in our community.”
The South County Food Pantry is open every weekday, 9 a.m. to noon, and the volunteers will happily help folks unload food donations from their vehicles.
“When we first started out, no one knew about us, and we would bring books to read to pass the time,” says volunteer coordinator Phyllis Gaylor, who has been with the Food Pantry for 20 years. “Now we have 20-30 clients every day.”
121 Warfield Ave.