A VITAL POP-UP food charity relied on by thousands is moving its Saturday morning distribution site from downtown Lake Worth Beach to a larger space outside the Boynton Beach Mall.
Restoration Bridge International’s final Saturday food giveaway at the Church by the Glades parking lot at 127. S M St. in Lake Worth Beach will be Feb. 24.
On March 2, the charity will host its first Saturday food distribution in the parking lot of Christ Fellowship Church in the northwest corner of the Boynton Beach Mall at 801 N. Congress Ave. in Boynton Beach.
The new and larger mall site is nearly 9 miles southwest of Church by the Glades, where the charity has operated every Saturday morning since 2017. It’s also in a commercial area more conducive to vehicular traffic, which has increased at the Lake Worth Beach site in the last two years, the result of a dramatic rise in demand for the free supplemental food handed out by RBI volunteers from 9 am to noon.
Over the past 12 months, recipients started showing up as early as 5 a.m. to get in line to receive the boxes of food, clogging residential streets around Church by the Glades with lines of vehicles and prompting complaints from residents about noise, traffic and blocked driveways.
“They outgrew our parking lot,’’ said Pastor Rob Lopez of Church by the Glades. “They had 300 cars coming through (every Saturday morning) when it first started and now it's up to 1,200.’’
The parking lot outside Christ Fellowship’s Boynton Beach Mall church, five times larger than the Lake Worth Beach site, will allow RBI to meet that growing need, said Jason Mandle, RBI’s director of operations.
“I don’t see any end in sight as far as food insecurity declining. I don’t see any end in sight as far as the economy improving, so I am preparing for that,’’ he said. “We are making a decision to go to where we can sustain growth while still looking at options to serve Lake Worth Beach.’’
That’s why RBI is hoping to return to Lake Worth Beach later this year for smaller distributions once or twice a month during the week.
“We don't want to leave (Church by the Glades) and leave that population in need,’’ he said. “There are people there who can’t drive. If they can’t walk to the Boynton Beach Mall, I’d like to be able to say we will be there, for example, the second Wednesday of the month.’’
He said he hopes people in need who have a car and live near Lake Worth Beach will drive to the Boynton Beach Mall on Saturday mornings.
“If they were waiting in line for an hour or two (at Church by the Glades), I am hoping they will take the extra few minutes’ drive (to Boynton Beach),’’ he said.
Mandle said he started looking for an alternative distribution site late last year when traffic complaints intensified. He said he accelerated the search two weeks ago after Church by the Glades announced to its congregation that it might be partnering with another church and possibly leaving Lake Worth Beach.
“We’ve got nothing but good stuff to say about RBI,’’ Lopez said. “The life change they have brought to the community has been incredible.’’
For 20 years, RBI’s food pantry has helped feed 180,000 people a year through distribution partnerships with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, Farm Share, Feeding South Florida, and Palm Beach County Food Bank along with numerous other local organizations.
“This move represents our commitment to growing our mission to honor and celebrate everyone by providing a hand up improving quality of life with nutritional food,’’ Mandle said.
“We believe no one should go without food.’’
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About the author
Joe Capozzi is an award-winning reporter based in Lake Worth Beach. He spent more than 30 years writing for newspapers, mostly at The Palm Beach Post, where he wrote about the opioid scourge, invasive pythons, the birth of the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches and Palm Beach County government. For 15 years, he covered the Miami Marlins baseball team. Joe left The Post in December 2020. View all posts by Joe Capozzi.