November 15, 2017

If you lavish your food on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; Then your light shall rise in the darkness, and your gloom shall become like midday.” Isaiah 58:10

Gary Tester, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Central Florida, is happy to announce plans to bring two new Mission Markets to Polk County. Replicating the Mission Market in Orlando, located on the main campus of Catholic Charities, they will have a farmer’s market feel with fresh fruits, vegetables, bread and more. “We’ve moved to a choice pantry orientation that supports our neighbors’ opportunity to select foods their family will eat,” said Tester.

Tester and the Catholic Charities team have been studying the needs of the underserved in Polk County for the past two years to strategically place these markets where they can do most good. Tester will seek to harmonize this food ministry with parishes in Polk County and will work with them to determine locations with strong attention given to Lake Wales and Lakeland. Efforts will also be taken to intensify the existing food pantry in Winter Haven.

As part of this transition, Catholic Charites of Central Florida board of directors has decided to cease most operations at the Agape Food Bank in Lakeland by the end of December, 2017. This transition of ministries will allow a more effective outreach to those in need. The Agape Food Bank operation falls under the umbrella of Feeding Tampa Bay, a nationally recognized hunger relief organization and part of the Feeding America network. While Catholic Charities will shift its focus to the Mission Market, Feeding Tampa Bay will pick up the food bank role in Polk and Hardee counties. The food assistance programs in these counties that are currently supported by the Agape Food Bank will continue to serve those in need and will do so under the supervision of Feeding Tampa Bay. Feeding Tampa Bay will also be a partner to the newly implemented Mission Markets to ensure the resources to feed those who hunger. In addition, the SmilePak program, supported by Publix, Mosaic and the GiveWell Community Foundation, will continue to serve children through the end of the school year.

“The Agape Food Bank has provided a beautiful ministry to individuals and families in Polk County for more than 30 years. As we examine the changing needs throughout Polk County, it is clear our ministry charism is in the operation of local parish-based pantries with Feeding Tampa Bay playing the important food bank role,” Tester stated. “Please pray for the success of these new ministries.”