Longtime pantry volunteer ‘planting’ seeds to end local hunger
By Ken Jackson on Thursday, February 23, 2023, Osceola News Gazette
Some people plant rose bushes. Others plant fruits and vegetables.
Tammi Madison wants to plant … pantries. (And if you’re planting the fruits and veggies, she’d probably like to talk to you.)
When the goal is to put an end to hungry families – first in Osceola County, then across other local counties – there probably isn’t anyone better locally to spread the ability to feed them.
Madison, who spent 16 years in charge of the St. Cloud Community Pantry addressing food insecurity our neighbors experienced, is behind Pantry Planters, a 501c3 non-profit that, essentially, continues that vision after a short retirement.
She started it last year, and its aim is to end local hunger by empowering community members to open and operate food distribution centers throughout the county, in the places of greatest need.
“God showed me this plan, and it’s the easiest job I’ve ever had,” she said. “Who doesn’t have a heart for helping?”
And the need has never been greater. With the back-to-back impacts of the pandemic and inflation, more and more families have had to make difficult choices, between paying rent, utility and medical bills, getting to work, providing for their families … or eating.
It’s truly a full-circle story for Madison, whose young family needed the help of a food pantry decades ago when the family’s aviation business was forced to close due to unattainable government regulations. Once back on their feet, she made good on her promise to “pay it forward”, which led to becoming St. Cloud Pantry’s volunteer director.
Once a community that needs a pantry is identified, Madison said her goal is to provide the host with a business plan and financial support within the community, and to help monitor the new operation with ongoing resources, support and education.
Despite her brief retirement, she kept the relationships with local grocery stores and restaurants. Her strongest relationship remains with Second Harvest Food Bank, based in Orlando.
“I want to let others use my know-how through the work we did in St. Cloud. We’re here to help,” she said. Each pantry will, and needs to be, unique to the needs of that area.”
And, 2023 is already off to a fruitful start. Her original goal when starting Pantry Planters in 2022 was to start five new pantries this year.
“We’ve started three (in Poinciana and Kissimmee) in the month-and-a-half of the new year already,” Madison said last week.
On Feb, 10, the opening night of the Osceola County Fair, patrons could get in free by donating two cans of food, with the donations going to Pantry Planters. Some 860 pounds of food were collected, enough to serve 715 meals. This will be an annual effort at the Fair, Madison said.
There are many ways to provide help to a hungry community besides opening a full-fledged pantry or improving an existing one. Through Pantry Planters, those who wish to help can assist in coordinating a monthly food drop, serve meals at a pantry, or start a community garden (hence the help growing those fruits and vegetables).
It can all be coordinated through the non-profit, go to www.pantryplanters.org for more information, or call 407-986-7949, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally posted on Around Osceola: https://www.aroundosceola.com/news/longtime-pantry-volunteer-planting-seeds-end-local-hunger