BRANDON — Several thousand churchgoers will change out of their Sunday best and into their Feed the Bay T-shirts this weekend in time for the annual food drive.
Feed the Bay, in its ninth year, is a partnership between 34 local churches, most of them in the eastern part of the county, and 17 charitable agencies.
During Sunday services, the churches will hand out grocery lists compiled by participating agencies, including such organizations as Metropolitan Ministries and the Emergency Care Help Organization, or ECHO.
Volunteers will make their way to the grocery store after church, stock up on some of the items on the list and deposit their bags by 2 p.m. onto trucks at 19 Publix locations.
The trucks then will head back to the food banks, which will be ready to distribute the new items Monday.
“It’s really the easiest way to serve,” said Melanie Langston, Feed the Bay coordinator for Bay Life Church. Anyone can participate, not just church members, she said.
The list of requests includes more than 30 items ranging from toiletries to canned goods to crackers and cereal.
People are encouraged only to buy what they can afford to donate, said Debbie Weisemann, a team leader from Bell Shoals Baptist Church.
“Between you buying and me buying and other people buying, we got it,” she said.
Feed the Bay was started in 2006 by Brandon’s Bay Life Church and has collected more than a million pounds of food, toiletries and store gift cards through the years.
The event is held before Easter every year as a way to help the food banks restock after they begin to run out of the items they collect during the holiday season.
The goal is to expand the event throughout all of Hillsborough County and then statewide, Weisemann said.
Feed the Bay has grown, but the event stays true to the original mission, she said.
“The basic theme is always pretty much the same,” she said. “Really taking time to, first of all, pray for those that are walking through different times, and then going and doing something about it.”
To find out more about Feed the Bay donation locations, go to www.feedthebay.org.