Local nonprofit supplies food to families affected by COVID-19

Special to Gannett
Walton Sun

Food For Thought's mission is to remove the negative impacts of hunger, and to empower children to get the most out of their education and development by providing them weekly access to healthy, easy to prepare meals through their many programs.

In the 25 weeks of the 2019-2020 school year before the COVID-19 “Stay at Home” order, Food For Thought distributed 829,000 food items to over 3,300 students across Okaloosa and Walton counties through their backpack program with the assistance of 6,300 volunteer hours. When the global pandemic hit and schools closed their doors, Food For Thought had to quickly restructure and embrace the fluidity of the ever-changing situation at hand.

“We have never closed our doors. We keep fighting to support local families in need,” said Tiffanie Nelson, founder and executive director of Food For Thought. “We’re seeing families that have never required our services before. Food insecurity can often result in just one missed paycheck. And that’s what we’re seeing now. People in need like never before. If your kids haven’t been a part of our backpack program prior to COVID, that’s OK. We're here to help.”

There are five established locations, each of the pantry locations in Santa Rosa Beach, Destin, Defuniak Springs, and newly added locations in Mary Esther and Freeport. Families receive curbside bags of food, each vehicle receiving 30 to 50 full size food items in order to prepare full meals for the entire family. Each location hosts two pickups per month serving 500-600 families across all five locations. Staff and volunteers are strictly adhering to safety guidelines.

This shift in programming means 60,000 food items are needed per month in addition to replacing $120,000 in donation losses from postponed or canceled events and fundraisers from March into September.

It’s just $30 a month to sponsor a family. That $30 provides one week of food for one family and you can sponsor a family by texting FFTSUMMER to 44321 or donating online at fftfl.org. You or your business can now Sponsor a Pickup Location for $1,500 a month, which includes both service days.

If you or someone you know is in need of support from Food For Thought, you can get information about food distribution the following ways: text @FFTST to number 81010 to use the Remind App, email support@fftfl.org, or call 850-714-1960