Over the fall of each year our community supports those in need in a greater fashion than at any other time of the year. One of the byproducts of the holiday season is a refreshed awareness of and service to those in our community who might be struggling. Many feel a sense that they want to give back; to respond in gratitude for graces received in their own lives. The enriched support allows many charities to provide more than they normally could, particularly for those of us who provide food relief.
I’m often asked, ‘are there more hungry people this time of year?’ The short answer is no; we will have as many hungry people in our community on January 10th, April 22nd or August 3rd as we do this fall. But those of us who provide food will have a lot less support – of funds and volunteers – after the holidays are past. We understand this; it’s natural that we all return to our lives, the rush of the ‘season’ is over and we settle into our routines.
But, here’s the thing: our friends and neighbors who needed us over the fall will need us over the winter, through the spring and in the summer. I’m reminded of a sermon I heard where the priest offered up the idea that if your idea of church was something you did on Sunday mornings, you’d missed the point of the message. Love and service to others, so prevalent and wonderful in the fall, can be year-round. We at Feeding Tampa Bay will still be here, the folks who need our help will still be here – can we count on you to be here?
Fill the Bowl kicked off Bowl week on December 22nd. Fill the Bowl, presented by Achieva Credit Union, is a program that aims to give back to the community and is held in conjunction with Boys & Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay,Boys & Girls Clubs of The Suncoast and Feeding Tampa Bay to provide weekend meals for children in need.
Players from Marshall and UConn football teams, joined by kids from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay, competed against each other at Renaissance Vinoy Resort to see which team could pack all of their bags of weekend meals for children first. When finished, over 10,000 meals would be packed and ready to be delivered to Boys & Girls Club locations in the Tampa Bay area.
“Too many children in our community are hungry,” said Thomas Mantz, executive director of Feeding Tampa Bay. “One in four (children) wonder where their next meal will come from. We are so grateful to ESPN Events and the other sponsors who are joining us to feed the kids in our community who would otherwise go without. The game will be played out on the field, but the children will win.”
A video of players packing bags can be found on Feeding Tampa Bay’s Facebook Page.
For the fourth year, The Mosaic Company partnered with Feeding Tampa Bay to provide holiday meals for more than 700 students and their families at Gibsonton Elementary School. While these families experience an increased financial burden over the holidays, the $15,000 grant from Mosaic ensured these students will have food over the holiday break, as they will not have access to subsidized school meals. Mosaic employees packed the bags at Feeding Tampa Bay, then distributed to students and their families the next day as they left the school.
The special bags included the makings for a holiday dinner: ham, roast beef, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, green beans, sweet potatoes, stuffing and gravy.
At 3:00 a.m., the first individual pulled up to the Feeding Tampa Bay warehouse to patiently wait for a box of food. Many individuals and families would fall in line behind shortly after, waiting for hours until the From Our Table To Yours Family Food Distribution officially started at 9:00 a.m.
The line was made up of grandparents who were trying to feed their grandchildren, families who had to pay their mortgage and other bills but didn’t have enough left for food, individuals who suffered a recent medical emergency, veterans who live on a fixed income that isn’t enough to make ends meet.
Volunteers, sponsors, and Feeding Tampa Bay employees gathered and boxes started to fill – with turkeys, fresh produce, stuffing, and other various holiday sides. Nearly 1200 families left the warehouse that day with a holiday meal and a smile.
Watch this From Our Table To Yours time lapse video.