LAKELAND, Fla. — A Polk County food bank that suffered catastrophic damage from a tornado in October is once again ready to serve the needs of its community — just in a smaller space.

  • Mt. Tabor Baptist Church food bank building flattened by Oct. 18 tornado
  • Food bank now housed in container gifted by Kathleen Middle School
  • Food bank opens at 9 a.m. Thursday
  • More Polk County stories

“There are still days that I walk out here and I can’t believe what we’re dealing with,” said Pastor Matt Gilmore of Mt. Tabor Baptist Church.

What they’re dealing with is a whole lot of nothing. It was all destroyed in a tornado last month. 

The gigantic yard once had a beautiful tree, and is now just a pile of mud. A nearby slab of concrete used to be the foundation for one of Polk County’s largest food banks.

Now everything’s been moved into a container as the church works to find its new normal.

The food bank is officially back up and running, with a shipment of donations coming in this morning.

A container gifted to the church by nearby Kathleen Middle School for an entire year will now function as the food bank until the church can find a more permanent solution.

But a more permanent solution won’t come cheap.

The church received $93,000 from insurance for the building that housed the previous food bank, which was flattened in the tornado.

But proper permits are needed to rebuild, along with a mandatory water tank that comes with a price tag of roughly $125,000 to meet code.

“All that costs money, and we don’t have that much money to deal with, so we’ve got to find ways to cut corners where we can,” said Gilmore.

He estimates it will be about a year-long recovery, but he promises those cuts won’t be when it comes to feeding the community.

“Maybe it doesn’t look exactly like it did before, but it’s back up and running and it’s going to feed 150+ people," Gilmore explained. “I think this is something, if Jesus was alive today, I think he would be running a food bank somewhere. I just think he would do that kind of thing."

As for Turkey Day, he says they were never asked for many Thanksgiving boxes in the past, but will do their best to accommodate those in need, even on the limited money they have to work with.

The food bank will open tomorrow at 9 a.m.

Anyone wishing to make a monetary donation to the church can visit