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‘Feeding minds’: Tampa Bay schools opening food pantries

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Tampa Bay schools are partnering with a local organization to make sure students never go hungry.

It’s all a part of Feeding Tampa Bay’s “Feeding Minds” program. FTB will partner with a school and open a food pantry for families in need.

The latest food pantry to open is at Webb Middle School. The school’s social worker, Jessica Alvarez, worked hand-in-hand with FTB and United Healthcare to make it all happen. Alvarez says many parents who have children attending Webb Middle School are in need, so this resource is vital.

“These people leave their home countries and everything they have and they come here [Tampa] and don’t have everything and they are living with other families,” Alvarez said. “So now it’s a Grandma that has 10 kids in the home and four parents and now money is tight and they need to make ends meet.”

Alvarez also says a hungry belly is a distraction for students in the classroom.

“They let us know, I’m hungry, I didn’t eat breakfast, there’s no food at home,” Alvarez said. “It’s really distracting for them unfortunately and so with those cases we try to set them up with a time they come into the pantry and get food.”

The pantry is open to students and their parents. Parents say they are thankful for this resource.

“I don’t always need it but when I do need it, it’s a lifesaver,” parent, Timothy Dreyer said. ” Six kids, there’s eight of us in the house with me and my wife, so eight people feeding, on a limited income, it can be stressful sometimes, so it does relieve some stress if we need it, it’s here.”

Feeding Tampa Bay has a total of 32 food pantries in schools throughout the Bay area. There are 27 in Hillsborough County, four in Pinellas and Manatee County schools will have food pantries this fall.

We are transforming our community. Feeding Tampa Bay sees a hunger free Tampa Bay by 2025,” Shannon Hannon-Oliviero with FTB said. “The only way we are going to be able to do that, is working together and putting food into the pathways of the neighbors we serve.”

Hannon-Oliviero says FTB plans to have at least 50 school food pantries open by 2022.

“Every child needs to feel confident and go to school feeling supported by their teachers and social workers. Their parents need to feel comfortable knowing they can take care of their children,” Hannon-Oliviero said.

Current List of Schools with Food Pantries:
Mort Elementary
Woodson K-8
Potter Elementary
Washington Elementary
Woodbridge Elementary
Ruskin Elementry
Dover Elementary
Bing Elementary
Dowdell Middle
Forest Hills Elementary
Lanier Elementary
Jennings Middle
Cleveland Elementary
Memorial Middle
Sheehy Elementary
Webb Middle
King High School
Wimauma Elementary
Lakewood High School
HCC Ybor
HCC Dale Mabry
HCC Brandon
HCC SouthShore
USF Feed A Bull
John Hopkins Middle
Dixie Hollins
Oak Grove Middle School
Gibsonton Elementary
Clair Mel Elementary
Broward Elementary*
Palm River Elementary*
Foster/Sligh
Greco Middle*
Jackson Elementary
Edison Elementary*
McDonald Elementary*
Robles Elementary*

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