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As the coronavirus pandemic continues to unfold, food banks across the Tampa Bay area are seeing a sharp increase in the need for financial donations and food.
On Friday, the Laxer Family foundation, which owns the Bern’s family of restaurants, pledged $20,000 to Feeding Tampa Bay to help with relief efforts during the pandemic known as COVID-19.
“As a long-time staple of the Tampa Bay community, we want to give back, and at these unprecedented times, this was crucial," Bern’s proprietor David Laxer said in a prepared statement.
Like all restaurants in the state of Florida, Bern’s Steak House, Haven and other restaurants in the Bern’s group were forced to halt dine-in business last week to help curb the spread of the coronavirus and have since laid off the majority of their employees. In addition to the $20,000, five remaining salaried employees at Haven will donate all their tips and gratuities for the remainder of the shutdown to the relief effort, according to the statement.
Local food banks continue to struggle as the demand for food surges amid a dwindling supply, due in part to panic-shopping at grocery outlets, many of which regularly support food pantries with their excess stock.
“There is plenty of food in the system, but right now we are just not getting the same donations that we’re typically used to,” said Kelley Sims, Feeding Tampa Bay’s chief development officer. “So we’re buying most of the food we’re distributing right now, which is well beyond anything we would have budgeted for.”
The local food rescue and distribution organization is the largest in the Tampa Bay area, and regularly supplies food for 600,000 people. Sims said many of the partner agencies Feeding Tampa Bay delivers to have estimated a roughly 35 percent jump in their food demand due to the coronavirus, which has left tens of thousands of people unemployed and forced all area schools to close.
Sims said the recent uptick in donations has helped the organization keep up, but that more will be needed.
“I’m so encouraged by the people who just keep stepping up to help us, because obviously the need for food right now is growing on a daily basis, like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”
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