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HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital became one of a growing number of organizations donating their daily surplus food to the Charlotte County Homeless Coalition, which serves hot meals to shelter residents, unsheltered persons and residents 365 days of the year.

“Last year we served between 1,500 to 2,000 meals per month; now we are serving 3,500 to 4,000 hot meals, including breakfast and lunch to our shelter residents,” said Tina Figliuolo, CEO of the Homeless Coalition.

“Food orders can often exceed demand and this surplus is another opportunity for Fawcett Hospital to help improve the health equity in our communities,” said Dr. George Ruggiero, chief medical officer of HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital. “Caring for our community often goes beyond the walls of the hospital, and we thank our caregivers for recommending this initiative, which can have a lasting impact on those we are privileged to serve.”

Prior to the pandemic, the Homeless Coalition was serving one large meal at dinner for shelter residents and members of the public, whether they were unsheltered or simply needed a hot meal amid soaring food prices, Figliuolo said.

When the pandemic hit, the Homeless Coalition served food in two shifts to allow more space between diners in the main dining room. Realizing that having two shifts eased the burden on volunteer servers and meal-preparers, that trend continues.

Currently, there are some 120 meals served “restaurant-style” nightly, Figliuolo said.

As inflation increased along with the area’s homeless population, the number of those seeking meals grew, she said.

So far, HCA Florida Fawcett Hospital has donated large trays of pulled pork, soup and breakfast sandwiches, Figliuolo said.

But much more is needed. Many families and individuals rely on the Homeless Coalition’s food pantry whose supplies are dwindling due to high demand.

Figliuolo suggested that before snowbird residents return north, they can donate their hurricane supply food to the Homeless Coalition.

Needed are protein foods, such as beans and rice, canned fish, chicken, beef and canned pasta. For those without a kitchen and utensils, pop-top cans of food are greatly needed, she said.

For information call Chef Kasie at the Homeless Coalition, 941-627-4313.

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