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Memorial dinner for woman's dad leads to grassroots effort to feed kids

Posted at 8:20 PM, Dec 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-11 20:20:34-05

TAMPA, Fla. — Vicki Anzalone proudly calls herself a daddy's girl.

"His heart was incredible," she said.

When he passed away, Vicki wanted to carry on his memory, he loved baseball  and embraced his Italian heritage.

"I made baked ziti for about 60 children and I thought what a great way to honor him and change that energy," said Anzalone.

But what she saw at a dinner at a school four years ago broke her heart.

"That's when we found out the rate of childhood hunger was over one in four children with the national average being one and six, Tampa really has a higher rate," said Anzalone.

And she knew her dad would want her to do something, so she founded Where Loves Grows

"So what was supposed to be once in a year event turned into about 300 meals a month," she said.

The first year, all the money for food came out of her own pocket. A huge task because this mom's on a fixed income struggling with chronic pain. But she refuses to let the kids down, so she reached out for help.

"People cannot take action unless they know that there's a problem," said Anzalone.

And they have. She has seen an outpouring of support, from children and parents volunteering to community heavyweight Jeff Vinik even joining the cause. And now it's just not feeding needy kids but also, "we've launched into mobile kitchens" in hopes of teaching kids to cook and hopefully breaking a cycle.

"For some of them the only option is to pick up supplies. That could be the gas station around the corner. So rather than pick up a bag of chips they know they can go get some diced tomatoes and box of pasta and make that go further for almost the same amount of money. No child should ever go hungry anywhere in this country. So hopefully, we will be able to end it here and Where Love Grows will be a part of that," said Anzalone.