F.I.S.H. reports record-breaking holiday basket, pantry usage
Thanksgiving has come and gone, but not without a flurry of excitement at the F.I.S.H. of Sanibel-Captiva Food Pantry and Walk-In Center. As in years past, F.I.S.H. distributed bags of stuffing, rolls, fresh and canned vegetables and pies, plus gift cards to buy holiday proteins.
While F.I.S.H. officials anticipated increased requests mainly due to lost work hours and job loss tied to the ongoing COVID-19, they did not expect the last-minute burst of assistance requests.
“It started with increased usage of the food pantry the week before Thanksgiving,” Food Program Director Maria Espinoza said.
With the pantry shelves low on essentials, F.I.S.H. volunteers made two “emergency” grocery pick-ups at local markets just before the holiday.
“When the week of Thanksgiving rolled around, we realized additional supplies for our Holiday Program would also be necessary,” she said. “Many clients with holiday plans outside their own homes changed their minds, leaving them without meal supplies. Others, who serve at local restaurants on the holiday, learned they wouldn’t be needed due to lower than usual reservations. And some learned that their family would not be visiting, leaving them alone and searching for a meal for one or two.”
Staff and volunteers worked around the clock on Nov. 23-26. In all, F.I.S.H. provided meals for 634 neighbors in need through food baskets, gift cards and prepared meals in its Meals-by-FISH program prepared by Bailey’s General Store. Using COVID-19 measures, such as facemasks, hand sanitizing and social distancing, volunteers and staff assembled the baskets at the center. Volunteers delivered the meals by vehicle, bicycle and on foot through Thanksgiving morning.
“Our community came together to help hundreds of families have a happy Thanksgiving with full tables,” Executive Director Alicia Tighe Orgera said. “We’re so grateful to our community and their generous spirits for making sure every request for a holiday meal was met this year.”
Partners for the Thanksgiving Food Basket program included Bailey’s, which donated bags; Saint Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church, which donated pies; The Great White Grill, which donated turkeys; Friends Who Care, which donated gift cards; community members, who donated resources; and volunteers, who donated their time, energy and effort.
F.I.S.H. anticipates another surge in requests for food baskets and pantry usage for Christmas.
“We will provide food baskets for Christmas to those needing a hand up,” Espinoza said. “With such uncertainty, it warms my heart to know that we can help.”
If you or a family you know needs a basket, contact Maria Espinoza at 239-472-4775.