Students and families in East Tampa now have better access to healthy foods thanks to the Dairy Council of Florida, Feeding Tampa Bay and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
This month, Buccaneers wide receiver Scotty Miller, along with Captain Fear and Buccaneers Cheerleaders, joined Hillsborough County Public Schools Superintendent Addison Davis and leadership from the Buccaneers, the Dairy Council of Florida and Feeding Tampa Bay at Potter Elementary School to celebrate the opening of a new food pantry. The transformed space on campus, which will serve hundreds of families from the school community, will help ensure that healthy, balanced meals with an assortment of dairy products will be available to students and their families throughout the year at no charge.
"This is exciting for these students because it's so key for them to have access to healthy foods and dairy products," said Miller. "When I was younger, I regularly had nutritious meals and they helped me get to where I am today. We always encourage kids to exercise for at least 60 minutes a day, whether that's playing football or any type of physical activity, and it's important to have this nutrition to add fuel and help them be at their very best."
The pantry was brought to life in part through the Dairy Council of Florida's Fuel Up to Play 60 Hometown Grant, which supports nutrition and physical activity programs in school districts in all 32 NFL markets. Now in the eighth year of the program, the Buccaneers and all NFL teams are working with state and regional dairy organizations to identify deserving schools in their communities to receive funding to help facilitate sustainable physical activity and healthy eating programs for students.
"It means everything to have such wonderful partners like Feeding Tampa Bay and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to come together and meet the needs of our schools," said Teresa Moran-Wiebe, Dairy Council of Florida Vice President of Youth Wellness. "For the Dairy Council of Florida, food insecurity is a top priority. Any time we have an opportunity to increase access to nutritious foods, including dairy for students, we want to collaborate."
Fuel Up to Play 60 is an in-school nutrition and physical activity program launched by the NFL and the National Dairy Council, founded by America's dairy farmers, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The program encourages youth to consume nutrient-rich foods and achieve at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. As a result of the program, 14 million students are making better food choices by selecting nutritious options like low-fat and fat-free dairy products, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Additionally, 18 million students are getting more physically active during the school day.
"One thing we've seen over the last two years during this pandemic is there are so many essentials that aren't being met in our homes, so this initiative really allows Hillsborough County Public Schools to help all of our families not only develop the whole child, but also develop the whole family," said Davis. "This is going to ignite thinking and put students in the confident space to excel physically, emotionally and intellectually, every single day. Nutrition matters, and this collaboration truly shows that we're willing to do everything we can to help our students have a foundation of success both inside and outside of the classroom."
The food pantry at Potter Elementary has been developed in collaboration with Feeding Tampa Bay, the leading organization in hunger relief throughout the 10-county area of West Central Florida. Feeding Tampa Bay's Feeding Minds program opens food pantries at schools where the risk of food insecurity is prevalent, bringing groceries to students and families who may struggle to make ends meet. Currently there are 49 pantries throughout five Tampa Bay-area counties, with plans to add 20 more in 2022. Thirty-one of those pantries are in Hillsborough County, with more pantries planned this year.
"This is a fantastic opportunity to highlight our great community partners and meet a need – bringing food to families where they already are," said Matt Spence, Feeding Tampa Bay, Chief Programs Officer. "The Buccaneers and the Dairy Council of Florida have been incredible supporters in enabling us to deliver healthy food that helps kids concentrate in school and be better prepared for life. Having the excitement from Scotty, the Buccaneers and everybody here really makes a difference as we open this for the entire school community."