HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — When the Thompson Elementary School staff arrived at school last week with some new donations to their food pantry, they made a horrifying discovery: the boxes were filled with bugs.
“The bugs had spread to the rest of our food supply and we had to throw out almost our entire stock,” said Courtney Vermette, a Thompson Elementary School Counselor. “We were devastated of course but also glad that we discovered it so that we could find a solution before our kids returned.”
The bugs came from an outside food donation and the entire place needed to be fumigated to make sure it was safe.
The food the school had to throw out could have fed at least 15 families, according to Kristina Perez, Thompson School Counselor.
"It's a big loss," Perez said.
Now, Thompson Elementary is asking for help replenishing their food pantry before the start of school.
Vermette helped start an online Facebook fundraiser where they've already raised more than $500.
However, they are also accepting donations at the school.
"We are so grateful for any donations, including canned and boxed non-perishable items that are sealed as well as uniforms and shoes," Vermette said.
Thompson Elementary School is located at 2020 Shell Point Rd E, Ruskin, FL 33570 for anyone who can drop off those items.
They are hoping to have these donations in before August 8, when the school's open house is. That's when parents can come in and get what they need prior to the start of school.
The food pantry started when teachers and staff saw a real need for students.
"We are a Title I school that serves 800 students, of which 80% are on free or reduced lunch," Vermette said. "Our families are amazing and don’t ask for anything, but we know their struggles and needed a way to step in and help out."
Administrators and staff said they just want to ensure their students are able to learn.
"Our students truly mean the world to us and we want them to be able to come to school and focus on learning without worrying about where their next meal will come from when they walk out at dismissal," Vermette said.