RIVERVIEW, Fla. — At a party, you’d expect decorations and of course, some courses.
“So, this is a fried chicken made with cornflakes and parmesan,” culinary student William Rush explained, pointing to a spread of dishes on a table before him.
And this recent get-together at Sumner High School did not disappoint.
“It is a festivity, a fiesta going on in my mouth,” teacher Yolanda Turner exclaimed, as she takes another bite of a sweet treat and dances a little jig. “It’s peanut butter jelly time!”
Staff and students at this Riverview high school celebrated the official grand opening of "The Feeding Minds Food Pantry" with a ribbon cutting and party.
Principal Robert Nelson has been pushing the pantry project for two years because he believes schools need to feed both brains and bellies.
“It’s just the need, you see the need for our kids,” Nelson said. “It’s hard to learn when a kid is hungry.”
The Hillsborough School District, Feeding Tampa Bay and BayCare all played a part in serving up this community service.
Pantry doors have actually been open for three months now, and the place has been busy. Students, parents and school staff all shop the shelves for items to fill their own pantries.
JoHanna Figueroa left the pantry with filled bags. “I got fruit, I got tuna [and] I got mac and cheese,” Figueroa said, listing the items. They are all the ingredients needed to stretch a budget.
“They help me, because it’s not a secret for anybody, that food is very expensive right now,” she explained. “So, when I come here and get milk, cereal, chicken and ham – it’s helped me a lot for the whole week.”
Always voted most popular at this school pantry is cereal.
“Oh cereal – they come in here every day, ‘Can I get a box of cereal?' because it’s a whole meal right? It’s breakfast, it’s lunch, it’s a snack and you don’t have to have cooking skills to use it,” school social worker Kalynn Jones said.
Those are just a few of the reasons why 10 Tampa Bay and Feeding Tampa Bay team up each year for Cereal for Summer. The drive helps stock food pantries in a ten-county area, including those at schools like this one.
Sumner High senior Joselynn Torres volunteers at the pantry because she simply wants to help.
“It breaks my heart to see them hungry,” she said of the pantry patrons.
But there’s healing for this teenage heart when people pack up bags of food and perhaps leave a bit of worry behind.
“I can see their smile, they feel better,” Torres said. “They look happier, than when they first walked in.”