Battling Hunger To Help Local Students Succeed


With the much-needed support of local volunteers and donors, Food For Thought Outreach is once again gearing up to provide backpacks filled with healthy food for needy students across Okaloosa and Walton counties.

Now in its 12th year of service, Food For Thought supports a child’s development and educational experience by bridging the gap between school meals during weekends and holiday breaks. The local non-profit has been fighting child hunger since 2010 and now serves 32 area schools, providing weekly backpacks to more than 3,200 students dependent on free or reduced school meals. “With economic hardships facing so many families in our area, we are experiencing historic levels of food insecurity in Okaloosa and Walton counties,” Tiffanie Nelson, Founder & CEO of Food For Thought, said. “As the demand for our services has grown, we are more thankful than ever for the support of local volunteers and donors who share in our goal of fighting child hunger.”

One of Food For Thought’s most important annual events took place August 25, when volunteers and supporters gathered for the ninth annual “Stock the Pantry Party” in Santa Rosa Beach. The event, which is open to anyone making a $7 donation or providing seven food items, marks the completion of a summer-long friendly competition among local businesses to raise funds and food for the program.

Volunteers Needed
Though the annual Stock the Pantry event has concluded, as most schools have resumed normal operations following the pandemic, Food For Thought has a growing need for volunteers to help prepare and deliver backpacks to students each week. “During the school year, we will sort, package and distribute more than 2 million food items to needy students,” Nelson noted. “That work requires a total of more than 5,000 volunteer hours, so we are desperately in need of individuals and groups who can contribute whatever time possible to support our mission.”

Each week, volunteers assemble and distribute backpacks containing about 10 easy-to-prepare food items, including breakfast items like oatmeal and cereal, lunch items such as peanut butter, jelly and soups, healthy snacks, and fresh produce like apples and oranges when possible.

Nelson noted that individuals and organizations also can support the non-profit program through a financial donation. A contribution of $7 sponsors a child for a week, $28 sponsors a child for a month, and $252 will sponsor a student for the entire school year. Donations can be made online at