Article and Photos by Chuck Seaver

Managing a full-service food distribution center is a challenge in the best of times but during skyrocketing food price times, the challenge has become even more stressful for Executive Director Trish Kry and the staff of The Neighborhood Center of South Lake (TNCSL). The staff and many volunteers at TNCSL each have personal experiences in life that have led them to the call of serving others. The goal of the TNCSL is to not only provide food to people that have found themselves in unusual financial circumstances due to rising rent and food prices but to provide nutritional food that will help the recipients remain healthy. “Our emphasis is on nutritional needs versus simply filling one’s stomach with any kind of food,” says Kry.


The Center has seen tremendous growth in a time when food purchase ability has realized a 30% decline in pounds for every dollar spent versus a 44% increase in clients so far this year compared to all of 2022. Sharp increases in food prices began around mid-2022 and have continued to rise since that time. As an example, on average this year, $5500.00 will purchase 6,000 pounds of food from Second Harvest Food Bank versus that same dollar amount purchasing 7,000 pounds in 2022. Last year alone, TNCSL distributed 1.8 million pounds of food to families and individuals in need.

Kry has concerns about the Center’s financial ability to continue to serve the families of South Lake at the same level that it has in the past, during a time when donations have declined considerably, and school-funded food programs have ceased during the summer break for children. “Children, while in school receive two meals a day during the school day week. Now that school is out, my concern is that they are only receiving one meal a day, maybe. No one wants a child to be hungry or homeless,” says Kry

While school is on summer break, TNCSL has once again established an annual “School Break Feeding Program”. A program that is currently serving six hundred-fifty children. The following pantry staples are greatly needed and currently in short supply at the Center:

·         Peanut Butter
·         Oatmeal (individual packets)
·         Macaroni and Cheese Cups
·         Fruit Cups
·         Apple Sauce
·         Canned Pasta

Many costs that are often overlooked by the public when donating are the operating costs of the Center. TNCSL is a licensed food pantry, licensed by the Florida Department of Agriculture, a department that has oversite jurisdiction to ensure satisfactory food storage and disbursement safety requirements. Requirements that require certain freezer, refrigeration, and air-conditioned storage temperatures. The average summer power bill for the Center is $2,000.00 per month. Other costs that aren’t usually thought about by the public are the staff salaries, operating costs of its food transportation truck, utilities and other every day, operational costs. It should be noted that the Center maintains a bare-bone staff of only five, full-time employees, and three part-time employees while relying heavily on unpaid volunteers to accomplish the TNCSL’s mission of serving nearly 2,000 individuals, or 400 families each week.


Kry recently quoted a philosophical example of determination about a man and a little boy at the beach one day after a storm. “The storm had washed thousands of starfish ashore. The man, while walking with the little boy, noticed that the little fellow was picking up starfish one at a time. He would examine it briefly and then gently toss the starfish back into the sea. Finally, the man asked the little boy, what are you doing? The little boy simply replied with a smile, I’m saving them from the sunshine which will surely dry them out. The man scoffed and said, there are thousands of starfish laying out here, you can’t possibly help them all. The little boy quickly replied, while picking up another starfish, I can help this one though as he gently tossed the starfish back into the sea.”

While the TNCSL may not be able to help everyone, it makes every effort possible to help as many as it can. The Center relies heavily on the community and the businesses within the community to help them help others.

You can help also in many ways. The  Center is always appreciative of donations. No amount is too small. What you will buy at a regular grocery store for $10.00, TNCSL can purchase from the Second Harvest Food Bank for $1.00. Although the donation of food is certainly appreciated and asked for, monetary donations go much further in the purchase of food through the TNCSL partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank.

Saturday, July 8 from 12 pm – 3 pm – The Kiwanis Club of Clermont is hosting an “All you Can Eat Taco Buffet” at the Green Valley Country Club, 14601 Green Valley Boulevard, Clermont on July 8th from 12 PM-3 PM. Tickets are $20.00 each and can be purchased at the door or online at

Friday, September 29 – The Neighborhood Center of South Lake is hosting a fundraiser golf tournament on September 29th at the Mission Inn, 10400 County Road 48, Howey-in-The-Hills. Sponsorship and participation opportunities remain available. Information is available at   Or contact Sharon Couture, event coordinator at 352-429-1200, Extension 107.
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