Harvest Food and Outreach Center celebrates opening of cost-share grocery

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – More than a hundred people gathered Wednesday evening to celebrate the official opening of Harvest Food and Outreach Center’s newest endeavor – the Cost-Share Grocery.

The new “grocery” store provides deeply discounted prices on everyday grocery items for those who qualify for the program. Bonnie Moore, a Vero Beach resident, is one such customer.

Moore, who had spent the last 40 years employed, recently found herself without a job and found it difficult to put food on the table and pay her utility bills.

It will take her six to eight weeks before unemployment kicks in, leaving her with few options in the meantime, she said.

“I was so thrilled,” Moore said of being accepted into Harvest Food and Outreach Center’s program. “It’s more than just groceries, it gave me hope.”

Before learning of the Harvest Food and Outreach Center, Moore lost four to five pounds from lack of food – opting to buy food for her elderly dog than herself, she said.

Now, she can afford to feed both the dog and herself and still have money left over to pay her bills.

“I hope you’re feeling the joy this evening,” Board Chair Don Drinkard said, addressing the assembled crowd prior to the ribbon-cutting.

He said that building the cost-share grocery has always been a dream for the center and now the dream has come true.

“It’s the centerpiece of our hunger relief” efforts, Drinkard said, adding that clients can purchase their groceries for one-third cost of a regular store.

“It’s a hand up, not a hand out,” he said.

Clients pay for their groceries, which leaves them with a since of dignity and personal responsibility.

Inside the cost-share grocery, shoppers can roam aisle after aisle of foodstuffs – everything from chicken broth and fruit juice to bread and peanut butter.

Wal-Mart donated the shelves that line the store and 150 shopping carts, which will be split among Harvest’s three centers, and even clothing to be sold in the Harvest Thrift Store.

“So many have linked arms” to help, Harvest Food and Outreach Center Founder Austin Hunt said.

Along with Wal-Mart, CVS Distribution, Hale Groves, Pepsi-Co, Runner’s Depot, Tropicana, Winn-Dixie and a host of other businesses and organizations have donated “time, talent and treasure” to the endeavor.

The John’s Island Community Foundation donated funds to purchase two delivery trucks, joining other foundations such as the John’s Island Service League, Grand Harbor, and the Indian River Community Foundation.

“The community has really embraced what we’ve been doing out here,” Hunt said, expressing his gratitude for the support.

Of all the organizations, though, that helped bring the Cost-Share Grocery into existence, Hunt said none was more instrumental than Impact 100, which awarded a grant for more than $100,000.

“I felt like I was on American Idol,” Hunt said of going through the grant application process.

Though Harvest Food and Outreach Center has now opened its grocery, its plans are far from complete.

“We have a long way to go,” Hunt said.

The campus on US 1 at 28th Street has an additional 18,000 square feet of space for further growth, he explained.

Plans include making room for other non-profits to also assist those in need – making the campus a true one-stop “compassion center, if you will,” Hunt said.

The Harvest Food and Outreach Center is in constant need of volunteers and donations. Anyone interested in learning more about the center or the ways to help, visit www.HarvestFoodOutreach.org or call (772) 564-9365 or stop by at 1360 28th St., Vero Beach.

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