As Need Grows and Intensifies, Local Nonprofit Supplies Food to Families Affected by COVID-19
Food For Thought’s mission is to remove the negative impacts of hunger, and to empower children to get the most out of their education and development by providing them weekly access to healthy, easy to prepare meals through their many programs.
In the 25 weeks of the 2019-2020 school year before the COVID-19 “Stay at Home” Order, Food For Thought distributed 829,000 food items to over 3,300 students across Okaloosa and Walton counties through their backpack program with the assistance of 6,300 volunteer hours. When the global pandemic hit and schools closed their doors, Food For Thought had to quickly restructure and embrace the fluidity of the ever-changing situation at hand.
“We have never closed our doors. We keep fighting to support local families in need,” says Tiffanie Nelson, Founder and Executive Director of Food For Thought. “We’re seeing families that have never required our services before. Food insecurity can often result in just one missed paycheck. And, that’s what we’re seeing now. People in need like never before. If your kids haven’t been a part of our backpack program prior to COVID, that’s ok. We’re here to help.”
Food For Thought operates year-round providing services during all breaks in the school year including summer months. The organization has had to shift to these larger, more involved summer-style services three months earlier than anticipated without skipping a beat.
There are five established locations – each of the pantry locations in Santa Rosa Beach, Destin, Defuniak Springs, and newly added locations in Mary Esther and Freeport. Families receive curbside bags of food, each vehicle receiving 30 to 50 full size food items in order to prepare full meals for the entire family. Each location hosts two pickups per month serving 500-600 families across all five locations. Staff and volunteers are strictly adhering to safety guidelines including wearing gloves and face masks, social distancing, and less than 10 volunteers working together at any one time.
This shift in programming means 60,000 food items are needed per month in addition to replacing $120,000 in donation losses from postponed or cancelled events and fundraisers from March into September.
It’s just $30 a month to Sponsor a Family. That $30 provides one week of food for one family and you can sponsor a family by texting FFT SUMMER to 44321 or donating online at fftfl.org. You or your business can now Sponsor a Pickup Location for $1500 a month which includes both service days.
“A mom of six reached out on Facebook. One of our new delivery drivers recognized our food items. His five kids had been bringing home our backpacks. Now with kids out of school, these families have lost the direct line to our services and many don’t have reliable transportation,” says Nelson. “We are learning to be nimble. To meet people where they are and help them the best we can. Our community has always come together in times of need, and we’re asking for their help now. Every dollar helps.”
If you or someone you know is in need of support from Food For Thought, you can get information about food distribution the following ways: text @FFTST to number 81010 to use the Remind App, email email@example.com, or call 850-714-1960.
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