Clearwater, Florida - In Pinellas County alone, 7,000 children are chronically hungry. But the public defender's office is working feed them.
It's a backpack of hope. Filled with food, it's giving hungry children a meal that otherwise wouldn't be there.
"It is just not right in Pinellas County, one of the wealthiest counties in the state of Florida, we have 7,000 chronically hungry children," says Bob Dillinger, Public Defender for Pinellas and Pasco counties.
Meaning children who wake up in the morning hungry and they don't have enough food for the weekend. That's how "Nourish to Flourish" came about.Dillinger is behind the program that's feeding about 1,250 of those 7,000.
"We want these children to learn and not be a dropout and not be in the criminal justice system, not be a welfare child. We want them to be able to learn, and [in order] to learn they've got to be able to be fed."
Working with Pack-A-Sack, Nourish to Flourish increased the number of children receiving backpacks at High Point Elementary from 10 to 70 a week.
"We're all about student achievement here and they can't learn when their bellies are growling, and we need to make sure we meet their needs," says Dr. Susan Taylor, principal at High Point Elementary.
But it's not enough. There are 30 children on a wait list for food.
"There was a child at High Point, 8 years old... when asked, 'Did you eat all this food?' he looked down at the floor. And I was like, 'What's going on here?' He said, 'Well, my buddy Timmy has less food than I do so I shared some of it with him. Is that OK?' I go, 'Yeah, that's OK,'" says Dillinger.
The goal is to feed every one of the 7,000 children in Pinellas County, one backpack at a time.