PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — We’ve all felt the pinch of higher food costs, but imagine feeding as many as 6,7, 8 or 9 children. For many foster families in the Tampa Bay area, inflation hits home even harder.
Yet, two Pinellas County sisters are on a mission to help feed foster families and they’re hoping with your help, they can expand to help more families.
Sisters Samantha and Laura Kopec have spent thousands of hours together cooking in their family’s kitchen in North Clearwater.
Their labor of love started three years ago when the girls’ parents took them to a group foster home in Safety Harbor and the Kopec sisters realized their love of cooking could go a long way toward helping others.
“I remember seeing a young boy maybe 4 years old stuffing rolls into his pockets for fear he would go hungry and he didn’t know where his next meal was coming from so when I got home, I knew I needed to do something. We started emptying our refrigerator to see what meals we can make for them,” older sister Samantha Kopec explained.
Not long after, the Kopec sisters started their own nonprofit called Feeding the Fosters Inc. Over the past three years, they’ve provided around 40,000 meals to 65 families.
Claudia Jeffrey’s family received several meals from Feeding the Fosters Inc. She has 8 children, and 5 are foster kids.
“They have helped me tremendously with meals to help me with time with the children. It’s a huge lift off our shoulders,” Jeffrey said.
Jeffrey was so inspired by the mission that she ended up joining and now she and her children help prepare meals for other families.
The Kopecs gather surplus food from local restaurants like Olive Garden, Carrabas, Panera and Einstein Bagels. They also shop for groceries. From there, the sisters and their volunteers use the food to make homemade dishes. Italian dishes are their favorite to create.
“We feel like we saw an untapped need in the community and so we started cooking and encouraging our volunteers to do the same. We’ve had many foster families contact us and ask to be added to the meal train,” Samantha Kopec explained.
Younger sister Laura is an incoming senior at Palm Harbor University High School and older sister Samantha is in college. The girls want to expand their program to include a larger radius.
Currently, they only serve families within a 10-mile radius of Clearwater. They would also like to provide meals for families who adopt children from the foster case system.
Yet, gas prices and inflation are having an impact on Feeding the Fosters Inc. and forcing the Kopecs to reduce weekly deliveries between 30% and 50%.
“Some families that were receiving more meals are now receiving less,” Laura Kopec explained.
The Kopecs are organizing a virtual auction from now through July 28 with a goal of raising $10,000 to help more families.
The Feeding the Fosters Christmas in July Auction is being hosted on Bidding Owl. The Kopecs collected $10,000 in donated items from cruises to hotel stays and TVs to auction off.
You can check out the fundraiser here.
You can read more about Feeding the Fosters Inc. here.