GULFPORT./LEALMAN – Tampa Bay Network to End Hunger, a tri-county leader in hunger relief, research and program development, has two new partners.
The Catherine A. Hickman Theater of Gulfport and Clearview United Methodist Church in the Lealman area will host weekly meal packing events and help deliver food to children and families in Lealman and Gulfport through the Meals On Wheels for Kids program.
“We are grateful MOW4Kids is serving our community, especially with summer approaching, this ensures our children have the same access to good and healthy food as we enter what may be a long and uncertain summer,” Gulfport Mayor Sam Henderson said. “We are happy to support the Network’s mission to help children and families in Gulfport. This program also gives our employees the opportunity to give back by helping our community.”
Volunteers will assemble shelf stable foods and produce at the Catherine A. Hickman Theater on Saturday for delivery on Monday and at Clearview United Methodist Church on Tuesday for delivery on Wednesday. On delivery days, volunteers load school buses with produce and shelf stable foods to deliver to the homes of children and families around St. Petersburg.
“As COVID closed schools and took its toll on the economy, we were so grateful to have space to offer when the Network approached us about hosting this program,” Clearview United Pastor Keri LaBrant said. “We and the Network both value the most vulnerable people around us, and doing more together for families who are struggling is a win-win.”
The Network’s MOW4Kids program launched this past March, in partnership with Share Our Strength’s No Kids Hungry, Pinellas County Schools Food and Nutrition and Transportation Departments, Daystar Life Center, St. Petersburg Free Clinic and Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County.
MOW4Kids, the first program of its kind, was developed in response to COVID-19 school closures, to serve children, 18 years or younger, with meals delivered to their home by volunteers. MOW4Kids delivers to: 1) kids, ages 18 and under; 2) kids that can eat solid food.
MOW4Kids is an alternative option for kids that are not able to access meal distribution sites throughout the county; and/or 2) kids that have difficulty accessing open food pantries. The program currently serves these St. Petersburg zip codes: 33701, 33703, 33704, 33705, 33707, 33708, 33709, 33710, 33711, 33712, 33713 and 33714; and will continue to expand the program to include neighboring zip codes.
“Support from our community is critical during this difficult time,” said Caitlyn Peacock, executive director of TBNEH. “Our new partners will allow us to provide a much-needed service in St. Petersburg by distributing more meals to children that are at home and unable to access an emergency feeding site. They will also allow us to bring together community members to volunteer their time to help prepare the food that will be delivered.”
At the core of this Meals on Wheels program is nutritious food delivered to the homes of children and their families. The program provides meals, shelf stable groceries, along with produce, as resources allow. Children may experience an increase in overall nutrition, health, and food security. Eligible recipients may also report decreased feelings of loneliness and increased feelings of safety from volunteers stopping by.
Meal packing events take place each week at these sites: Saturdays-Catherine Hickman Theater, 5501 27th Ave. S., Gulfport; Tuesdays- Clearview UMC, 4515 38th Ave. N; and Saturday- Daystar Life Center, 1055 28th St. S.
Interested in volunteering? Go to networktoendhunger.org/volunteer to complete a volunteer application. If you or anyone you know could benefit from this program, call Tampa Bay Network to End Hunger at (813) 344-5837 or submit an application at NetworktoEndHunger.org/MOW4Kids. If eligible, meal delivery service can begin the following week, while school is closed.
TBNEH is committed to ending hunger in Tampa Bay by bringing people together to find solutions that eliminate barriers, increase access and knowledge, and expand the amount of nutritious food available. TBNEH has more than 350 members and serves a tri-county area, Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas counties. TBNEH is a 501(c)3 non-profit agency and relies on its community for support.