TAMPA BAY, Fla. — While the lines for early voting at the polls around Tampa Bay haven’t been terribly long this week, that likely won’t be the case as the weekend—and Election Day itself—approaches.

Many residents run out during their lunch break, or perhaps in the morning before work, and they often don’t have time in their schedule for both eating and voting. 

Thankfully, a new-ish program founded by some forward-thinking foodies is here to help alleviate the hunger, and maybe the hanger, while folks are biding their time in line to participate in the democratic process: Pizza to the Polls.

What You Need To Know

  • Pizza to the Polls delivers free pizza to those waiting in long lines to vote

  • The nonprofit relies on social media to report long lines

  • Food trucks sponsored by Pizza to the Polls will be visiting polling places in Central Florida, Tampa Bay this weekend

“We started in 2016 as a response to seeing long lines at polling locations,” says Pizza to the Polls Program Director Amirah Noaman. “Our founders are in the tech industry, so it was easy for them to create a website and Twitter handle.”

It’s an undeniably populist idea. Anyone standing in a long line to vote—say, where the wait might be over an hour or so—can submit their location to the website or tweet at @pizzatothepolls. The company will take a look and, if they can, order up a big batch of pizzas from a local restaurant to deliver and distribute to waiting voters for free. During the 2016 election, P2tP handed out more than 25,000 slices at 128 polling places in 24 states. When the 2018 midterms came around, those numbers jumped to nearly 11,000 whole pizzas (that’s 88,000 slices!) at 611 spots in 41 states.

Given that this year’s election is one of the most contentious in living memory, lines are apt to be longer than ever. A look at P2tP’s order tracker currently shows heavy action in places like New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Maryland. Noaman says the first few days of early voting saw them making many deliveries to the Tampa Bay area, and expects the region will get, ahem, cooking again as the nation gets closer to November 3.

P2tP is classified as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit social welfare organization. Its model is funded by both brand partnerships and donations from the public.

“We have a lot of people supporting this project,” says Noaman. “It’s really fun to see people hear about it and throw a few dollars our way.”

During the 2018 midterms, for instance, P2tP raised more than $426,000 in donations.

Pizza to the Polls uses food-centric phone apps like Slice to locate local pizzerias nearest the polling places it targets; independent local businesses are preferred, though sometimes if there isn’t one within a reasonable distance a bigger chain franchise might be employed 

The project has grown so widespread—and demand is expected to be so large—that P2tP has partnered with Uber Eats and local and national food companies to roll out their own food trucks in 29 cities. That program begins on Thursday.

“We’ll have prepackaged food and snacks, everything from Shake Shack to Kind Bars,” Noaman says.

The trucks will start the day at a pre-specified polling location, and nourish the populace before plugging into the social-media system to determine the next destination. Noaman says they’ll generally stay in one spot for a couple of hours, or until the line thins out.

And yes, Tampa Bay and Central Florida are on the list of areas where the trucks will be out and about to ease the pain (and pangs) of those waiting to make their voices heard.