This story was updated at 9:10 a.m. Thursday.
TAMPA — The Rays are committing $250,000 to help Feeding Tampa Bay provide meals and other food services during the coronavirus pandemic.
Feeding Tampa Bay executive director Thomas Mantz said the team will make a $100,000 donation and offer up to another $150,000 in matching funds for an online virtual food drive.
The official announcement Thursday put the donation in terms of meals, using Feeding Tampa Bay’s terminology that “each dollar you give ... can help provide 10 full meals,” so it was that the Rays Baseball Foundation and Rowdies Soccer Fund are donating 1 million meals and will match up to 1.5 million more through the online program.
"They called and said they want to do something significant, and what might that look like,” Mantz said during a Facebook Live session with Tampa Mayor Jane Castor on Wednesday.
“A quarter-million dollars that they have made available to us and our community in support, it’s a tremendous gift. It’s a tremendous platform upon which we can leverage that and drive more folks to that opportunity that are sitting at home saying, ‘I’d like to do something,’ and this is a way for them to do that.”
Through the online site, donate.feedingtampabay.org/TeamingUp, people wishing to help can purchase food items from a list or make a direct donation.
In the release, Rays president Brian Auld said, “Feeding Tampa Bay works every day to make sure that children and families don’t go without food. Now that the need is greater than ever, and that work is harder to do, we are honored to support their mission and encourage others to do the same. While we have to stay isolated from each other to help our community overcome this pandemic, we must also remain committed to our neighbors, especially those in need.”
The group provides more than 5 million meals a month across 10 counties, and Mantz said the demand during the pandemic has increased 40 percent. With a decrease in donations of food, the group has been buying more food, so the Rays’ donations will help.
“It’s yet one more time as to why someone like the Rays are such a valuable part of our community,” Mantz said.
The Rays noted they previously have contributed to provide more than 2 million meals, and that “with a recently renewed three-year commitment, the partnership will surpass the 5 million meal mark, providing food to those in need in our community. The Rays are dedicated to bringing awareness to the issue of hunger, and will continue to host Feeding Tampa Bay food collection drives at Tropicana Field, including the annual food drive on Roberto Clemente Day.”
The Rays previously, in partnership with concessionaire Levy, donated $175,000 worth of food to Metropolitan Ministries, and they committed at least $1 million in a fund for stadium workers.