The closing days of December looked brighter this year for 650 low-income families with children attending Gibsonton Elementary. They each received a bag filled with the makings of a holiday meal, thanks to a partnership between Feeding America Tampa Bay and The Mosaic Company Foundation.
"There is a high level of need in our school since 90 percent of our children are on free or reduced lunch," said Donna Marra, the school's principal. "An event of this magnitude shows what great neighbors we have in our community."
The effort was made possible through a $125,000 grant the foundation awarded to Feeding America. The funding was used to purchase a new 53-foot refrigerated trailer, which pulled up in front of the school during the special distribution just before Christmas. Local Mosaic employees worked as volunteers to help Feeding America's staff hand out the food bags.
"This will be so helpful to me and my family this year," said Jo Engle, of Gibsonton, as she picked up her 3-year-old daughter Hailey and received a food bag. "My husband is currently working two part-time jobs, and we're struggling financially. I'm very grateful."
The grant immediately increases Feeding America Tampa Bay's transportation capacity and substantially improves the nonprofit food bank's ability to provide a higher level of service through the mobile pantry to thousands of area families struggling with hunger, said Thomas Mantz, executive director of the organization.
That's exactly why the grant was given, said Chris Smith, Mosaic's community relations manager and chairwoman of the Feeding America Tampa Bay board.
"I've worked with many worthwhile organizations throughout the 20 years I've been with Mosaic," Smith said. "But this one is particularly gratifying because it meets people's basic need for food and Mosaic's mission of helping the world grow the food it needs and providing it to those who need it most."
Feeding America Tampa Bay gives out 35 million pounds of food in the 10-county area it serves annually, she said. The organization distributes food to thousands of people each week through a partnership network of more than 600 faith-based and other incorporated nonprofit hunger relief organizations.
Smith added that Mosaic has been an educational partner with Gibsonton Elementary School for more than 20 years and provides weekend take-home food for 100 of the school's neediest kids each week with help from the Brandon Kiwanis Club and Feeding America Tampa Bay.
For more information on Feeding America Tampa Bay, visit their website at www.feeding americatampabay.org.