“This is one of the most important ‘Poundings’ we’ve ever had,” Florence Food Share Executive Director Colin Morgan said. “Our ability to keep the shelves stocked, especially for the holiday week, really relies on the Pounding being a success.”
The 22nd annual “Pounding for Food Share” food drive, begun by local business leader Cindy Wobbe, is being held this Saturday, Nov. 19 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Grocery Outlet, 2066 Highway 101. It is just one of several events being held to help fill the pantry, including Empty Bowls and the return of the popular Crab Crack.
The benefits couldn’t come at a more important time, Morgan said.
“All our numbers across the board have gone up,” he said. “Last month we had 887 food boxes distributed. This month, we’ve been just as busy — if not busier.”
Already struggling from a host of national, state and local economic issues, the end of the tourism season brought an additional issue into the mix for many Florence workers — fewer working hours.
“These people still have jobs, they just don’t have the hours,” which Morgan said was part of the reason for a rise in clients. “There are just not as many hours available. Then you have to make the choice. Do you give up a job and go on unemployment for a couple months? It’s a no-win situation.”
At the same time, supply chain issues have meant fewer donations coming from local grocery stores, “which already have tight margins,” according to Morgan.
“As inflation goes up, they have to get even. They can’t order in excess, so they don’t have as many donations coming our way,” he said.
But as a result of all the converging issues, Morgan said, “We’re getting less food in, but clients are up.” And he expects numbers to continue to rise in the following weeks.
“You’re trying to get your family through the holiday seasons, which is tough,” Morgan said. “And getting by means keeping food on the table, not having lavish and nice gifts and parties and so on. It’s just getting that food on the table.”
He clarified, “We don’t want folks to be discouraged. There is food. It’s just important that we keep diligent of the need, so that we don’t ever have an issue where we’re out of food.”
To help offset the pain of those decisions, the 22nd annual “Pounding” is looking to get as many pounds of food donated to Florence Food Share as possible.
The Pounding has raised over 170,000 pounds of donated food since its founding in 2000 by Wobbe, who still hosts the event. While pre-pandemic levels saw donated pounds in the 20,000 range, Morgan said, “We would love to get 30,000 pounds, but we’re hoping to get at least 25,000 pounds.”
The amount of pounds raised will be matched with money by event sponsor Top Hydraulics, whose owners Klaus and Maria Witte presented a $25,000 donation last year for the event.
In a social media post, Wobbe wrote, “Their generous support of the annual event makes it possible for Food Share to serve the 700+ families in our community who are food insecure beyond the holiday season and I am so grateful for them.”
Held in the parking lot of Grocery Outlet, people wishing to donate to the Pounding can purchase needed items in the store and donate, bring their own items to donate, or donate cash.
As was the case the last two years, the event will be held outside.
“We’ve got canopies being set up and tables, so folks can come straight out of the store and drop off their donations to the scales,” Morgan said. “We think that’s going to be a real winning recipe to be as functional as possible while also keeping everyone involved safe and comfortable.”
The donations will help provide Thanksgiving dinner for the food share’s patrons, who can sign up at the door.
“Thanksgiving dinner will just be like our normal distribution — you come in the door, we’ll get you an application, which only requires your name and the number in your household, and that you’re in our income guidelines, which is 300 percent of the poverty level,” Morgan said.
After that, clients can shop through the pantry and select the items they want.
“And we’re going to do our best to make sure that the items, especially for Thanksgiving, are stocked and ready for you to select,” Morgan said.
As for the meal itself, the food share’s goal is to have all the traditional offerings.
“Grocery Outlet and the grocery stores in town have been phenomenal partners, and we’re working with them to make sure we’ll have a well-rounded offering for folks who don’t have the money to buy an expensive turkey,” Morgan said. “We’re working with our partners to secure the items we’ll need to make sure we have complete holiday offerings.”
That includes staples such as stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce.
“They’re all so important,” Morgan said. “It’s both a physical need and a mental need. Being able to keep those traditions is important for everybody.”
To help cover financial operational costs for the food share, people can choose to sign up for monthly giving.
“If folks are able to do it, it gives us a bit more assurance of consistent income flow throughout the year,” Morgan said.
But there are two additional fundraisers coming up, starting with Empty Bowls on Friday, Dec. 2, at the Florence Events Center (FEC). The event, which runs through Dec. 10, is an annual sale showcasing locally-made bowls, art pieces, kitchenware, and other knick knacks.
“Recently, Boys and Girls Club made bowls for Empty Bowls, which is awesome because it gets kids involved,” Morgan said.
Finally in February, Florence Food Share is planning the return of the Crab Crack, a community favorite event which sees ticket holders feasting on fresh crab and other foods.
“We’re hoping to have a real bang-up event,” Morgan said. “It’s been two years since we’ve had it, which has given us a lot of time to think about it.”
Tickets, which traditionally sell out quickly, are expected to go on sale mid-to-late December.
The Pounding will be held at Grocery Outlet, located at 2066 Highway 101, on Saturday, Nov. 19, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Empty Bowls will be held at the FEC, located at 715 Quince St., and begins Friday, Dec. 2, from 4 to 7 p.m. For a full schedule of days, times and prices, visit eventcenter.org.
For more information on what food the pantry is looking for, or to sign up to provide monthly donations, visit florencefoodshare.org. Florence Food Share, 2190 Spruce St., is open Monday to Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Monday and Wednesday from 4 to 6 p.m.; and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
To encourage people to participate in this year’s Pounding, Wobbe wrote, “This is a tough year for a LOT of people and we need to stuff the pantry!”