The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive line is making sure families throughout the East Tampa community have more access to healthy food in the new year.
This week, the team's "D-Line" and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation launched the first of two dozen Buccaneers Mobile Food Pantries that will support children and families in East Tampa. These pantries, made possible through more than $40,000 in donations from the Buccaneers defensive line and a matching $40,000 grant from the Buccaneers Foundation Social Justice Fund, will be carried out twice a month through December 2022 to provide two weeks of food for up to 250 families who attend each event. Wednesday was the first of 24 mobile pantries that will be hosted in East Tampa through this program.
"The Buccaneers are committed to lifting up the Tampa Bay community, and that includes providing better access to healthy meals, particularly where issues of food insecurity are most critical," said Brian Ford, Buccaneers Chief Operating Officer. "It's important to bring awareness to this cause not just during the holidays, but 12 months a year. This new mobile pantry program will be available for East Tampa families all year long, and we are proud of our players, coaches and staff that are leading this effort with Feeding Tampa Bay to deliver support and long-term sustainability for the region."
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defensive Line and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation kick off the new year by launching the first of two dozen Buccaneers Mobile Food Pantries, at Middleton High School, to support the East Tampa community.
On the second and fourth Wednesday of every month, families will have the opportunity to visit Middleton High School from 4:30-6:00 p.m. to receive fresh, healthy groceries at no charge. The bi-monthly pantries are being hosted in collaboration with Feeding Tampa Bay, the leading organization in food relief and the fight against hunger throughout the 10-county area of West Central Florida.
"It's important to do everything we can to make sure children are healthy," said Thomas Mantz, Feeding Tampa Bay President and CEO. "Fundamental to that health is access to nutritious food. We're excited that the D-Line and Buccaneers organization are committed to stand with us, stocking this new pantry full of healthy and tasty food for kids and their families."
This Buccaneers Mobile Food Pantry program is spearheaded by the team's defensive line, including Will Gholston, Steve McLendon, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Patrick O'Connor, Willington Previlon, Benning Potoa'e, Kobe Smith, Ndamukong Suh, Vita Vea, and coaches Kacy Rodgers and Lori Locust. For years, the defensive line has carried out an annual holiday event titled "The D-Line Delivers Christmas" to lift up local families in need of support. This season, the defensive unit wanted to focus its charitable efforts on food insecurity to help ensure families in the East Tampa community have even more access to food throughout the year.
"The defensive line came together, and one of the things that we wanted to do was make a difference that will have a positive impact throughout the year," said Gholston. "The food pantries really hit home for me because I know what it's like to not be able to eat. This is something through which we can create a long-lasting legacy and anybody can contribute."
Community members who wish to join the Buccaneers in the fight against hunger can also donate to the cause. Visit FeedingTampaBay.org/Bucs to make a donation and help the team provide even more meals to Bay area-families this year.