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Feeding Tampa Bay to open 74th school pantry this year

Feeding Tampa Bay warehouse.
Posted at 5:20 AM, Aug 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-05 08:31:46-04

Five years ago, Feeding Tampa Bay opened eight pantries in schools. This year, the nonprofit is set to open its 74th pantry across four counties in Tampa Bay.

"That's why we need your help packing the pantries," explained Matt Spence, Chief Programs Officer at Feeding Tampa Bay.

"But in all honesty, there are 74 more schools that could use the help. Because when you think about even if, let's say, you're a high school with 2,000 students, even if only 20% of your student body is in need, that's 400 kids. So when you put it in individual numbers like that, you can see that there really is an incredible need," said Spence.

The partnership appears to be having success, too.

Last school year, 1,120,279 meals were served to families across 49 pantries in Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas and Polk counties.

In Hillsborough County, Feeding Tampa Bay operates pantries in 22 schools. Last year, they served 584,360lbs of food to more than 2,000 households.

This year, the need could be greater.

Spence said, "But the real problem is that when everything else becomes more expensive, and you can't make that go away, right, you can't, then that budget food is what gets compromised. And so is all that more important that we're there to step in and provide that food because food drops down the list of priorities. And yet, none of us function without it."

AnnMarie Courtney is the Director of Partnership, Engagement, Philanthropy and outreach at Hillsborough County Public Schools. She sees this need every day.

"By partnering with Feeding Tampa Bay, it gives us an opportunity to provide a resource to our families where they have dignity and are able to relieve themselves of food insecurity. And that is just a great hand-holding opportunity for us to engage in family well-being," she said.

"That, in turn, helps our students academically," explained Courtney. "So really, we have seen food insecurity increase, especially through the pandemic, because families who never needed any kind of support in this arena are now needing support with feeding their families. We've seen a large increase through students needing support for not just breakfast but also for lunch. And then, in many ways, just needing support for that time out of school."