July 13, 2016
Santa Rosa Beach, FL
By: Jessica Roberts
HOW TO FEED 1,500 STUDENTS A WEEK
The Food For Thought Outreach Approach to Fighting Local Food Insecurity
As Food For Thought Outreach continues to expand - both by adding to the number of children receiving services each year, and by the growing number of different services provided - it is important to share how this nonprofit operates in the community.
Food For Thought provides weekly backpacks filled with healthy, easy to prepare food for students who are dependent on free or reduced school meals. The organization does not use glass containers as the food items must be portable and not too heavy for our young students to carry home. Children have access to proteins, grains, fruits and vegetables weekly and adjustments are made for allergies. Food For Thought is diligent to act as a good steward of their donated dollars, and they go to great lengths to secure the highest quality food with the best price and never serve expired foods
The local nonprofit has been fortunate to work with generous community partners and has been the recipient of countless food item donations. Townsend Catering Company has been a loyal donor providing produce every year for six years. Mellow Mushroom Destin, Destin Harvest, Panera Bread, 30A Cottages & Concierge, and The Sonder Project have all contributed to the organization over the years.
Food For Thought could not continue to operate without all the families, organizations and businesses who donate year after year. Along with the signature Food For Thought event, Stock the Pantry which will be held on August 25th, St. Peter Roman Catholic Parish, Edge Elementary School, St. Joe Club & Resort, Ohana Institute, Fort Walton Beach High School, Good News United Methodist Church, Walmart, and more have held food drives.
“We love to hear stories about selfless children who donate money or food they collected during their birthday parties, families who pick up extras for us during their normal grocery shopping, and we routinely receive messages asking how businesses can start a food drive at their office or storefront.,” says Tiffanie Nelson, Founder and Executive Director of Food For Thought.
However, the work does not end there. The Food For Thought Team works with several local food providers to purchase the bulk of the food items distributed each week. These partners, which include Walmart Supercenter in Santa Rosa Beach, Publix Super Market at South Walton, Sam's Club Ft. Walton Beach, Sysco, and Flowers Baking Co., work with Food For Thought for bulk purchasing, assist in using sale and BOGO item pricing when available, but the nonprofit does not receive any other special pricing.
This can be a very costly process, but this approach ensures the best quality food and provides a level of consistency these students can rely on. Food For Thought spends an average of $300,000 per year of donated funds to ensure they can provide the same amount of nutritious food to students in the program every week of the year through all four of their food programs.
With sustainability top of mind, Food For Thought has created and is in the early stages of their new Garden Initiative (as seen at their new Destin Pantry) and coming in 2017, a new Pantry Kitchen will provide new programs, education, skills, and funding to the community.
During the 2015-2016 school year and summer break, Food For Thought distributed 42,000 backpacks, provided 9,120 meals over the Thanksgiving Holiday and Winter Break, and 800 bags of food in June, July, and August through summer programs.
60,000 food items are included in backpacks each month. Between all the holiday programs, weekly backpacks, and snack programs over 1,000,000 food items passed through the two Food For Thought pantries before being packed and distributed to local students and families in need.
“The most direct way anyone can help those in need is to join the new Food For Thought Membership Program. We have a $90 annual option and a $7.50 monthly option. These funds go directly toward purchasing food and ensure that these kids don’t have to worry where their next meal will come from,” adds Nelson.