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Food Drive Feeding Those in Need in Okaloosa County
You CAN Help – Food For Thought Outreach, a local nonprofit that provide backpacks of food to help bridge the gap of missed meals, has taken great strides in Okaloosa County since their introduction in 2013. Food For Thought’s services have spread from just two schools initially – Destin Elementary and Destin Middle – to include schools in Niceville, Valparaiso, Fort Walton Beach, and Mary Esther. Okaloosa STEMM Academy is one of the most recent additions to the program. This February, The STEMM Academy joins the other 9 schools and 900 students across all ages groups and school types in Okaloosa County. Private, Public, and Academies are represented across Elliott Point Elementary, Kenwood Elementary, AMI Kids, Bruner Middle School, Florosa Elementary, Edge Elementary, and Northwest Florida Ballet.
To help support the growing efforts in Okaloosa County, Food For Thought is introducing their “You CAN Help” Food Drive. Several schools have already joined on and committed their support. Participating schools include, The Village Preschool, Jacob’s Ladder, Childcare Network, The Roane School, First Baptist Child Development Center, Destin Elementary, and Noah’s Ark Preschool.
Those who wish to participate along with these dedicated schools can bring food items to the Destin Pantry at 908 Airport Rd, Beachside Community Church in Ft. Walton Beach, and Immanuel Anglican Church in Destin. The Pantry will be open every Wednesday in February, as well as Tuesday through Friday, February 21st through 24th from 9am to 5pm to accept donations.
Beyond easy to open, pop-top Canned Food (like soup, Chef Boyardee, veggies, tuna, and chicken), Food For Thought will also be accepting peanut butter & jelly in plastic jars, fruit cups, oatmeal packets, and snacks like healthy granola bars, snack crackers, and breakfast bars.
The organization took on even more students than originally planned during the 2016-2017 school year. Tiffanie Nelson, Founder and Executive Director of Food For Thought Outreach, says, “Our goal is to never turn away a school in need. We have several schools on our waiting list and we are always searching for ways to incorporate more and more students each year. We planned to grow by 300 students from last year. We’re already surpassed that goal by an additional 150 students and that number keeps growing. We estimate that we will add another 160 students next month.”
To compensate for this unexpected rise in demand, Food For Thought is setting a goal of 13,000 food items for the You CAN Help Food Drive. Nelson says that this is the number of additional food items needed each month – yes, month. Over 36,000 food items pass through the Destin Pantry each month. Those numbers only account for their backpack program. The nonprofit also conducts Holiday services during all school holidays, summer break, and has a snack program to assist teachers in the schools they serve.
“We will distribute well over 1,000,000 food items this year,” says Nelson. “The need is here right in our own backyards – neighbors, friends, colleagues, classmates that fall on hard times, face a loss at work or at home, or any number of reasons. We’re here to do all we can and are blessed that this community is so generous of their time and efforts. We can all help.”
To support the You CAN Help Food Drive, visit http://fftfl.org/products/
About Food For Thought Outreach
Food For Thought is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization based in Santa Rosa Beach, FL that provides backpacks filled with healthy, easy to prepare food for students who are dependent on free or reduced school meals. Our goal is to support a child’s development and educational experience by bridging the gap between school meals during weekends and holiday breaks. Food For Thought has been working to fight child hunger since 2010, and currently serves 21 schools in Walton and Okaloosa Counties, providing backpacks for 1,620 students each week. For more information, such as donation locations, pantry items needed, and opportunities to volunteer, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.