Council on Aging: We need food

From left, Osceola Council on Aging Meals on Wheels Director Wilda Belisle and Council Dietary Director Cathy Arft hold up a $1,000 donation from the Lake Nona Rotary Club.

About 400 people receive bags of food for their families every week at the Osceola Council on Aging, and when its food pantry is bare, they go hungry, agency officials said.

That’s what happened two weeks ago. And it’s why residents, businesses and local government offices are coming to the rescue.

“They’re living hand to mouth and this food is a necessity, said Council Executive Director Wendy Ford. “These are families who are working and still struggling.”

Since early August when the council posted on social media that its shelves were empty, donations of food and money have been pouring in.

“It’s incredible. We cannot believe people have stepped up to this magnitude this quickly,” Ford said. “We’re still picking up food from different places.”

One St. Cloud woman collected seven carts of food from Publix in one afternoon, and another woman from Longwood bought $800 worth of food for the council.

“We bless others with the blessings we receive and so the circle goes around,” Ford said.  

The council not only serves Osceola’s elderly population, but also residents of all ages, helping them with everything from food to financial assistance at its offices at 700 Generation Point in Kissimmee.

Among the first groups to organize drop-off sites for food donations was the Kissimmee Downtown Business Association and Kissimmee Main Street. They include Lanier’s Historic Downtown Marketplace, Kissimmee Diner, The Center and Happy Place Yoga.

Jeremy Lanier, who manages his family’s eponymous business, has been collecting donations since the council’s food supplies ran low last May.

He gathers nonperishable foods in a large antique trunk and when it’s full, he delivers it to the council himself.

“I was raised in a faithful family and my belief is that we live very brief lives and have to make the world a better place while we’re here,” said Lanier, who also works as a family support coordinator at the Osceola County Health Department and volunteers with the council.

“The people at the Council on Aging work tirelessly to help seniors and kids in hotels. They serve a vital role in the community,” he said. “It’s nice to know there are people like that doing so much for those in need.”

The Council on Aging is always looking for partners and needs food all year long, Ford said.

“Even when our pantry is full to capacity we can be wiped out quickly,” because the need is so great in Osceola, where four out of every five students gets free or reduced lunch.

“Money is just as important as food donations,” she said. “We know it’s hard for companies and individuals to collect food. But the donations help supplement the pantry and are used to buy more food.”

Want to help?

Non-perishable food or monetary donations can be dropped off at the following locations:

 •Osceola Council on Aging, 700 Generation Point, Kissimmee, 407-846-8532

 Lanier’s Historic Downtown Marketplace, 108 Broadway, Kissimmee, 407-933-5679

 •Kissimmee Diner, 120 Broadway, Suite 103, Kissimmee, 407-777-9767

 •Happy Place Yoga, 18 W. Dakin Ave., Kissimmee,

407-847-8792

 •Kissimmee Main Street, 21 Broadway, Kissimmee,

407-846-4643