Left to right: Dan Molter, executive director of FELT; Kristina
Rupp, primary volunteer grant writer for FELT; and Micheline
Silverman, MCF board member.
BRADENTON – Feeding Empty Little Tummies (FELT), the Manatee County-based nonprofit that provides meals to the county’s homeless school children, was recently awarded a $2,500 grant from the Manatee Community Foundation to continue its work. The funds will be used to purchase food to provide nutritious meals to fill backpacks that FELT donates to more than 225 elementary children each weekend during the school year when the kids don’t have access to school lunch programs.
Founded in 2010 by Bradenton residents, FELT has grown from serving just three elementary schools and is now offered at 16 elementary schools per week, and so far this year alone has provided more than 40,000 meals to children in the community.
Nationally, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reports homelessness among families with children as the fastest growing homeless population; Florida ranks third largest in homelessness to California and New York.
FELT appreciates the support from the Manatee Community Foundation because the award helps FELT continue its mission of meeting children’s basic need for meals. There are 54,300 people in Manatee and Sarasota counties alone with Manatee County having 1,716 children through 12th grade who are identified as homeless by Project Heart of the Manatee County School Board. Only 1,350 of those children are enrolled in schools.
Teachers of the students served by FELT see real and positive impact on their student's ability to learn and thrive in school, reporting improved attitude toward the children's school experiences, as well as the children accomplishing more in school because they are not constantly worrying about where their next meal is coming from, FELT says.
FELT continues to expand because of the ever-growing homeless population and, like most nonprofits, it relies on community support for its growth, including food and cash donations. By the end of the 2013-14 school year FELT will pack more than 50,000 meals and deliver them in backpacks to students.
With continued community support, FELT representatives say the organization is able to continue its mission, though it would like to expand its services to students in middle schools where there also is an overwhelming need. Additionally, FELT hopes to begin offering a summer program to provide meals to homeless children during the summer when children are not guaranteed a meal.
Ultimately, FELT is looking to insure that no child goes hungry on weekends or other periods when school is not in session. A lofty goal, but made more accomplishable through the support of organizations such as the Manatee Community Foundation.
For more information, or to find out how you can volunteer to help FELT, please contact Dick Moore, FELT’s volunteer coordinator, at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (941) 224-6089. FELT’s web address is: FELTinc.org.