EAST TAMPA — Feeding America Tampa Bay wants to hand out backpacks filled with nutritious food to students at Oak Park Elementary School.
The nonprofit has collaborated with Citizinvestor, an online networking or “crowdfunding” company, to collect $10,800 in donations by Dec. 4. The money would pay for 12,000 meals through the school year, distributed to students to take home on weekends.
Studies have shown more than 250,000 children in a 10-county area of West Central Florida regularly go hungry or worry they won’t be fed.
While there are school breakfast and lunch programs, fewer opportunities are available for children who might miss meals between Friday and Monday.
This program “gets to a time of the week when they are most vulnerable about access to food,” said Thomas Mantz, executive director of Feeding America Tampa Bay.
About 99 percent of the more than 600 students enrolled at Oak Park qualify under federal guidelines for free or reduced meals at school.
Feeding America Tampa Bay also has food programs at Sulphur Springs Elementary School.
“We just go through and try to identify areas of greatest need and create programs that will address those needs,” said Mantz.
Citizinvestor is a “whole different way for us to engage the community,” he said.
Citizinvestor launched in 2012 and has about nine public projects in cities across the country including Philadelphia and Boston. It reaches out to people on the Internet to help with fund-raising for community-based projects including public art, neighborhood improvements, libraries and schools.
“I cannot think of a more worthy investment than ensuring that the stomachs of hungry children in our community are filled,” said Tampa resident and Citizinvestor co-founder Jordan Raynor. “It’s a perfect, perfect type of project. It’s very tangible. People can see where their dollars are going.
Donors usually live in the project’s area but Raynor said as much as 35 percent of donations come from outside.
For more information, visit citizinvestor.com/project/weekend-food-backpacks-for-kids.