Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Demand overwhelms supply at Pasco holiday food giveaway

NEW PORT RICHEY — When state Sen. Mike Fasano got to the church before 7 a.m. Friday, there was already a line of cars snaking around the building and along Ridge Road. His annual holiday food giveaway wasn't supposed to start until 10 a.m. Hundreds of people were waiting. It had never been like this before.

Fasano spoke to the woman first in line. She was in her 40s and said she had been waiting in the lot since 6 p.m. Thursday.

Fasano was stunned.

"She sat here" all night, he said.

Each car that went through the line got a ham, a box of candy canes, canned goods, juice and potatoes, tomatoes, string beans, squash and okra.

Fasano said one woman with a child in her car cried when she got her food.

"Why are you crying?" he asked.

"Because this will help us," the woman said.

The event had enough food for 500 families.

They ran out in less than three hours. They had to turn away 150 families.

"This is the first year we ran out of food," Fasano said.

Chuck Weidman got the last box of what was left — lemonade — and a $25 Publix gift card, which Fasano handed out to people after the food was gone.

"It's rough," said Weidman, 43, of New Port Richey, who works at 7-Eleven. "I'm living paycheck to paycheck."

Fasano said most recipients in past years were homeless or nearly homeless. This year, he saw many families who, not long ago, were employed.

"This is a perfect example of how families are truly struggling in the Tampa Bay area," Fasano said.

Kenneth and Becky Meyers rode their bicycles 6 miles to the giveaway, held at Redeemer Community Church on Ridge Road in New Port Richey. Becky Meyers, 46, said she worked in marketing until she was laid off three years ago. Her husband is on disability. Nearly two months ago, the water pump broke on their van. It will cost $118 to fix it. They don't have the money. So they've been on foot or bike since then.

"We're broke now," said Kenneth Meyers, 50. "Completely."

"It's been very humbling," Becky Meyers said.

Kenneth Meyers said with the food they got, balanced carefully on their bike baskets, now they can bring food to his daughter's Christmas dinner.

He has hope things will get better.

"They can't stay this way forever," he said. "There is a light up there somewhere.... We've just got to persevere."

Becky Meyers found out she got a part-time job as a clerk at Winn-Dixie. Today is her first day.

"I'm grateful," she said.

Another recipient, 80-year-old Betty Berger, worried about running out of gas while she was in line. The Hudson resident heard about the giveaway Friday morning from a neighbor. She jumped in her car and drove.

"I just went and didn't even look at the gas gauge," she said.

Berger said she lives "way below poverty," relying on meager Social Security checks.

"I make the best of what I got and what I can get," she said.

She got there about 10 a.m. and waited in line for 30 minutes. She was one of the last people to get a full meal.

"I'm really thankful for it," she said, "for everything."

Sorting through the produce she got Friday, she realized there is one more thing she needs:

"I wish I had a recipe for okra," she said.

Erin Sullivan can be reached at or (727) 869-6229.

.fast facts

Farm Share Holiday Food Giveaway

This was the 16th year for the event, which usually gives 500 families everything they need for a holiday dinner, including fresh produce donated by Florida farmers. Donations from Publix, AT&T and other individuals and organizations support the event, which was sponsored by state Sen. Mike Fasano and state Reps. John Legg and Richard Corcoran. For information about the event or on ways to help, call Fasano's office at (727) 848-5885.

Demand overwhelms supply at Pasco holiday food giveaway 12/16/11 [Last modified: Friday, December 16, 2011 8:36pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Pinellas grants St. Pete's request to add millions to pier budget

    Local Government

    Times Staff Writer

    The Pinellas County Commission has granted St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's request to dedicate millions in county funding toward the city's new pier.

    The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday  voted 7-1 to appropriate $17.6 million for the over-water portion of the Pier District. This is a rendering of what the new Pier District could look like. [Courtesy of St. Petersburg]
  2. Man injured when small helicopter crashes into Odessa home


    ODESSA — Firefighters and sheriff's deputies were investigating Monday after a small helicopter crashed into the roof of a house in northwest Hillsborough County.

    Rescuers respond to a crash of a small helicopter on the roof of a home in the Odessa area on Monday. [Hillsborough County Fire Rescue]
  3. State investigation cites multiple failures in death of Largo child


    LARGO — It was sweltering in the bedroom of the Largo mobile home the day a child welfare case manager visited in July.

    Liz Rutenbeck, 24, poses with her son William in a Facebook photo. Baby William Hendrickson IV died while his mother was in jail after police said his father left ihim in a sweltering room.  A state investigation into the boy's death found multiple failures on the part of the child welfare system.
  4. 'Siesta Key' star punched in face, not sure who did it


    TAMPA —Alex Kompothecras, cast member on MTV's reality show "Siesta Key," tells police he was punched in the face outside a bar in Tampa's SoHo district.

    Alex Kompothecras, Juliette Porter, Pauly Apostolides, Madisson Hausburg, Chloe Trautman, Garrett Miller, Kelsey Owens and Brandon Gomes pose for a photo in Siesta Key in June before the debut of the MTV reality series Siesta Key. [
EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  5. Editorial: Senate health care bill would be disastrous for Florida


    The frantic effort by Senate Republicans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with something — anything — ranks raw politics over sound policy and threatens the health care of millions of Floridians. It is a desperate attempt to declare victory by shifting responsibility from the federal government …

    Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks in August in Doral.