Pet Food Bank Basics: Supporting Families in the Community

A bowl of food is being given to a dog who waits in the background,
Author: Natalie Kienzle
Posted: March 4, 2024
Modified: March 4, 2024

The Pet Food Bank run by VOCAL – Voices of Change Animal League is designed to aid families struggling to care for much loved pets and rescue organizations looking to make a difference. As a community-focused organization, we are proud to provide supportive animal welfare services for Ocala and Marion County residents. 

We’ve witnessed first-hand the amazing effect support services play in helping both pets and their owners. Getting your pets the right nutrition is just one more service VOCAL looks to provide to ensure you and your pet stay together for many years to come. 

VOCAL Resource Center Pet Food Bank

A pet food bank helps animals like this white and orange tabby cat.

No pet owner should need to choose between their own essential needs and those of their pets. Among those needs, food is a primary concern. 

You’ll find essential support for your furry friends through VOCAL’s Project FEED, providing Food, Education, Encouragement, and Direction right here in Ocala, Florida. Both dog and cat food supplies are made available.

Additionally, cat litter is readily available, an essential need for indoor cats. Providing adequate cat litter fulfills a basic necessity and helps foster clean and hygienic practices. Cats and their humans are much healthier when feces and urine can be properly disposed of. 

Who We Are

The Voices Of Change Animal League, or VOCAL, was founded out of a need and desire to solve the homeless pet crisis. 

Our food bank services are designed to assist Marion County residents who have limited income to provide food, ensuring their dogs and cats don’t go hungry. 

By providing free and low-cost pet food, our warehouse prevents families from making the heart-wrenching decision to surrender their pets due to economic constraints. Families get to stay together and burdens on our shelters are reduced. 

Food Warehouse Program

The Food Warehouse Program plays a critical role, partnering with other organizations to distribute food and other supplies. This program is in addition to our efforts to assist individual families and their pets. 

In our efforts to bring about change to our community, we’ve learned that mutual support and collaboration go far. This is why our pet food bank at VOCAL accepts applications from other rescue organizations in need of food and supplies. 

Throughout the year, the program prepares aid and supplies for eligible rescue organizations and animal shelters. By working together, we set the stage for continuous collaboration and support, cementing a community dedicated to the welfare of pets in Ocala.

Why Are Pet Food Banks Necessary?

An elderly woman sitting by a window with her dog next to her.

Pet food banks serve an essential role in preventing animal abandonment and ensuring pets stay with their loving families despite financial hardships. By providing support such as cat food, dog food, and cat litter, our food bank contributes substantially to the welfare of both pets and their owners.

The Impact on Elderly Pet Owners

For the elderly, especially those between the ages of 60 and 75, pets are more than companions; they are a source of emotional support and a link to the community. 

Pet food banks provide a vital service, ensuring that individuals are not forced to choose between their personal necessities and the welfare of their pets. As a county and state with a large retired and elderly population, support services like the VOCAL pet food bank are especially important. 

Effects of Malnutrition in Pets

Malnutrition can seriously affect the health of pets, leading to various issues ranging from weakened immune systems to severe health complications. 

Many of the following concerns ultimately lead to greater difficulties (and costs) for pet-owning families who may already be struggling. 

  • Weak Immune System: Pets suffering from inadequate nutrition are more prone to various illnesses and diseases.
  • Developmental Disorders: Young pets missing essential nutrients can experience stunted growth or developmental delays.
  • Illness: Pets not receiving balanced meals may show symptoms like lethargy, poor coat quality, and weight loss.
  • Behavioral Issues: Malnutrition might lead to behavioral changes, making pets more irritable or aggressive due to discomfort or pain.

Pet food banks can mitigate these risks by ensuring all pet owners have access to the necessary pet sustenance. By providing help for low-income pet owners, these banks lessen the likelihood of pets being surrendered for economic reasons. They are not just a temporary fix, but a vital component in maintaining the bond between families and their cherished animals.

Eligibility and Application

If you’re struggling to provide food for your pet, pet food banks are a wonderful resource. Up next, are some criteria to assist with in determining your eligibility and the steps to completing an application.

Who is Eligible?

There are two criteria standards to receive assistance and supplies from the VOCAL food bank

Rescue Organizations and Pet Shelters

  • Private organizations must have a 501(c)3 certificate that has been valid for at least 1 year
  • Public shelters are not required to submit a 501(c)3
  • Pick up is typically available on a bi-weekly basis
  • Cat food supplies MUST be used for rescued pets, NOT for support of feral colonies
  • Shelters should expect to pay a pickup/membership fee that helps support warehouse overhead costs (the fee is flat and not based on the amount or value of supplies)
  • All organizations (public and private) must reapply annually. 

Families and Individuals to benefit from Project FEED

  • ID and proof of Marion County Residency
  • Pets must be spayed or neutered (or have the procedure scheduled)
  • Provide pet information (age, weight, gender, breed)

If you’re a low-income family, elderly, unemployed, or suffering from a disability and struggling to meet your pet’s food needs, VOCAL is here to help. At the moment, we are not requiring those in need to provide proof of financial circumstances. However, we do ask that each take only what they need and only if they truly need it. 

The greatest good for the greatest number can only be achieved when we keep everyone’s needs in mind. For VOCAL to keep helping our community, we want everyone to do their part. 

Should you need pet food assistance but have not spayed or neutered your pet due to financial constraints, our low-cost spay/neuter clinic is available. Applicants seeking our pet sterilization services will not be turned away from food bank services. 

How to Apply

To get started, you’ll need to go through the application process as either an organization or individual family.

Rescue organizations and pet shelters can complete an application for the Food Warehouse Program once per year in August. 

Simply visit our informational Food Bank page for partners to revisit the requirements and complete the application. 

Families can complete the Program Services Application Form and provide information that includes: 

  • Contact email
  • Name
  • Phone Number
  • Address
  • Type of Assistance requested
  • Pet details

After submitting your application, a VOCAL representative will review your request and determine your eligibility.

Donations and Volunteering

Your contributions power the mission of VOCAL in Ocala, ensuring that pets in Marion County are well-fed and cared for. Whether you choose to donate financially, gift supplies, or offer your time, each act of generosity makes a vital difference in the lives of local pets and their families.

How to Donate

Financial Contributions: Your monetary donations are crucial. Donate to VOCAL to directly support their Pet Food Bank and other community services. Every dollar you give extends our reach and impact within Marion County.

Supply Donations: VOCAL welcomes pet food and supplies. Drop off your contributions at designated locations throughout Ocala. Check the wish list for the most needed items to ensure your donation makes the greatest impact.

Volunteering Opportunities

General Volunteering: If you have a heart for animals and time to spare, Volunteer with VOCAL. There is a range of volunteer activities you can participate in to help keep our services running smoothly.

Pet Foster: Have space in your home and love to give? Consider pet fostering. It’s a temporary commitment with a lasting effect on animal welfare. Learn more about Pet Foster opportunities and join a network of compassionate caregivers providing a bridge to forever homes.

Get Food For Your Four-Legged Family Members

As a pet rescue service, we see the profound impact of these programs daily. They not only feed pets, but also nourish the human-animal bond that is so vital to our emotional well-being. 

By providing a local pet food bank, we are not just helping animals; we are strengthening our communities and fostering a culture of compassion and care.

Are you in need of a little extra help lately? Contact VOCAL and get the help and support you need to help keep your family together and healthy. 

Interested in our clinic and vaccine services? Reach out to our clinic at (352) 640-7387 or email us directly at

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