Some things change, and some things stay the same. Thirty-five years ago, Tammi Madison sought help with food assistance for her family when her small business closed. She drove 10 miles to find the closest food pantry to her home in Osceola County. For 18 months, Tammi made that drive knowing it was the best way to keep food on the table for her family of five while she started over in a new career. Today, she pays it forward and helps feed her neighbors as the executive director at the St. Cloud Community Pantry, one of Second Harvest’s 550 feeding partners in Central Florida.
“I know what families are going through,” explains Tammi. “It can be emotional to lose a job or close a business. Admitting that you need help can feel embarrassing.”
Since March 2020, Tammi has heard countless stories of people seeking food assistance, many for the very first time in their lives. Her lived experience with hunger gives her empathy for her neighbors who are facing uncertainty and instability during the pandemic. Many of them lost their jobs at local theme parks or in the hospitality industry. According to Tammi, the need has increased by 110% in St. Cloud. The pantry continues to support the growing number of families in need thanks to community partnerships.
Partners like local supermarkets and warehouse clubs help Second Harvest Food Bank and its feeding partners support the heightened, sustained need for food assistance through the Retail Rescue Program. Each week, fresh produce, frozen meat, dairy items, bread and dry goods are picked up from local stores, sorted by volunteers, and distributed to kids, families and seniors at local food pantries.
“We’re able to give our clients more food than we ever have before thanks to this program,” says Tammi. On a recent visit to pick up food donations from her local Super Walmart, Tammi explained that it’s not just the quantity of food, but the quality and variety that really make a difference and help provide well-rounded meals for local families.
While the pandemic continues to weigh heavily on many local families, the fight against hunger continues thanks to the power of community partnerships.
“You helped me 35 years ago and now you’re helping a new generation with food,” says Tammi. “I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.”