By: Ethan Rampersaud
Wesley Chapel is a thriving community as reported by newspapers, visitors, and residents alike. But upon a closer look past the luxurious homes and shopping malls, there are many church run food pantries located around town. Not everyone who lives in this booming area can afford to enjoy the suburban life. Some individuals and families in this area barely eke by with the income they make or the public assistance they receive. There are individuals and families whose income disqualifies them from receiving public assistance, and those who do receive it cannot survive with just that little amount. That is where the food pantries fill in the gap. Food pantries in Wesley Chapel make it their goal to leave fewer people hungry and more people happy. One such food pantry is run by Bay Chapel Church, which is making a significant difference by feeding over 60 families each week in New Tampa and Wesley Chapel.
The Community Outreach Director of this food pantry, Lee Schielka, is in charge of scheduling volunteers, distributing food, maintaining budgets, keeping records, and making sure that there is enough food for those who are in need. When Schielka helps people through this food pantry, it gives him a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction that he is giving back to the community, one family at a time. Others who work at this pantry share this exact sentiment, being able to make a difference.
This food pantry strives to provide for individual and needy families in the community without having to deal with, as Schielka puts it, “red tape” from the government. Many families have financial situations which necessitate this program, but government run food pantries do not see them as qualified for it. The Bay Chapel Church food pantry seeks to help all needy families without any requirement or restriction.
Bay Chapel Church is adjacent to an area that seems not to be affected by community hunger: the section of County Line Road that connects Bruce B Downs Boulevard to State Road 54. This area does not seem to have any issues regarding hunger, with suburban communities filling it, leaving few rural spots in between. A hunger map from the Tampa Bay Times begs to differ, as it shows that hunger, especially on the Hillsborough side, is noticeably affecting this region (map shown below, area highlighted in green, source in picture). Schielka states that the poverty is “hidden” within Wesley Chapel, and that people are unable to observe the suffering under the cover of luxury.
Volunteers at the food pantry have many roles. A greeter creates a welcoming and comforting environment, empowering the patrons rather than making them feel shameful because of their situation. Enthusiastic student volunteers from the nearby Wharton and Wiregrass high schools assist in carrying food to patrons’ vehicles if they need it. Volunteers are needed at every food pantry, and the pantries encourage people, whether old or young, to have a part in helping. Other than volunteering, people can indirectly assist the food pantry by spreading awareness within the community and promoting the good work of the food pantries. They can also help by donating food items to the pantries. For people who want to give, but are facing financial difficulties, Schielka recommends a website called TrueCouponing. This website provides coupons and deals that can help people purchase items for themselves and the needy while spending less money.
This year, help others not go hungry by helping out your local food pantry. It is an obligation as a human to help others who cannot easily help themselves. Even a small change can make a big difference. As Mother Teresa once said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people then feed just one.”
To find a food pantry near you, visit: FoodPantries.org.