SPECIAL REPORT: Feeding America one truckload at a time

Hunger Action Month

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — There are several people who help fulfill Feeding America’s goal of addressing food insecurity including delivery drivers.

Duane Ates is the retail donations coordinator for Feeding the Gulf Coast. Duane loves his job.

“Working here at Feeding the Gulf Coast, not only am I able to give back to the community, I’m able do something that actually I’m able to sleep at night because I mean I’m doing something that’s good for not only me, but for other people,” Ates said.

Coordinating donations is only part of Ates’ job. He’s also a delivery driver for the Milton, Florida branch of Feeding the Gulf Coast.

“I’ve kind of just enjoyed interacting with people — to get to see the lights on people’s faces whenever food is dropped off, getting to build the relationships with people who are donating the food to us and those who are actually handing out the food to people in the community,” Ates said. “I mean it just kind of like all brings it together.”

Ates usually travels to Bay County two days a week. He said there are several drives and someone is here five days a week. He picked up from several retail locations including Walmart, Winn Dixie, and Flower’s Bakery Outlet. Then he drops off the items at Feeding America food pantries in the area.

“Just knowing that we’re out there to help those that are food insecure, or those that need like a little bit of a hand just trying to get through hard times I mean just knowing that we’re here to help them people that’s what keeps us going,” Ates said.

Ates said he had only been employed with Feeding the Gulf Coast for a short time when Hurricane Michael tore through the Panhandle.

He said the entire experience was emotionally and physically taxing.

“Everyone at Feeding the Gulf Coast, we pulled together as a team and made it happen for those — be able to give hope to those that were without, that didn’t have anything that lost homes, cars, didn’t have anything left but just the clothes on their back folks were telling me about so just giving them that hope, that there is people out there that want to help them get back to some normalcy,” Ates said.

Sometimes Ates spends his day in the office and while he said he is still helping others, picking up his keys and starting the truck gives him that extra connection with the people they are helping.

As part of ‘Hunger Action Month’ WMBB’s parent company, Nexstar Media Group, has committed $2 million in cash and on-air time over the next four years.

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