Boca could be fastest growing community of people needing food

BOCA RATON, FL (WFLX) - Boca Raton could be the fastest growing community of people who go hungry in South Florida.

Food pantries have had to turn to unexpected places to have enough food for people who need it.

In just the last year, the number of people who eat meals at Boca Helping Hands has gone up by 75 percent.

When you've gone from serving 80 meals a day to 130, keeping the shelves fully-stocked is only a dream.

Acquiring all that food takes a truck, and some generous, five-star restaurants.

Staff at Boca Helping Hands hits the road three days a week to chain restaurants because of the sheer volume of food that they would otherwise be throwing out.

On Thursday, it was a hundred pounds from Capital Grille. "We cut too many steaks, too many veggies, made, too many mashed potatoes, cooked too much bread, and it's still good, just not good for the next day," said Alev Ersoy, the executive chef at Capital Grille on Glades Road.

They also collected more than 100 pounds of breads and produce from Whole Foods.

In just a year, they've gone from collecting 34,000 pounds of food from restaurants a month, to 82,000 pounds.

The second-hand food has become the lifeblood. "Those thousand hot meals a week that we're putting out the door, those people wouldn't be eating," said James Gavrilos, the executive director of Boca Helping Hands.

Thursday night, beef from Capital Grille was used to make Sheppard's Pie, and strawberries from Whole Foods were cut for smoothies.

Lee Barry, a city of Boca crossing guard, brings her kids here four days a week. "I really couldn't go to the grocery store too many times and be able to get the breads and the meats. It was like, you had to say no sometimes. You couldn't make a sandwich," said Barry.

Gavrilos says Barry is one of many who could no longer afford to feed the kids even with two working parents. "The face of poverty in America has changed, and it looks a lot like us," he said.

Boca Helping Hands makes due with only $25,000 a year from the city.

The rest of their $1.3 million budget comes from private donations.

Half of their budget goes to purchasing food, but the food from restaurants is donated.

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