PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Many Tampa Bay area families struggle to put food on the table year-round, but with local schools out for the summer months, which eliminates daily breakfast and lunch on campus for kids, it will be even tougher to confront child hunger.

The critical need is evident every Saturday morning in St. Petersburg with more than 700 people waiting in long lines for free groceries at the old Tangerine Plaza. 

What You Need To Know

  • Families needing help with free groceries, along with free meals for children and teenagers, can visit food distribution sites

  • Positive Impact Ministries distributes free boxes of groceries to help struggling families survive

  • The Summer BreakSpot federal food service program for children and teenagers starts June 3

Positive Impact Ministries distributes free boxes of groceries to help struggling families survive.

“It helps me out a lot because it’s hard to get food,” said Nicole Willingham, a St. Petersburg mother who depends on Positive Impact to help feed her 3-year-old son. “It really helps me to be able to come here every Saturday to get food.” 

Willingham is one of the many walk-ups, along with hundreds of cars that span several city blocks, relying on food assistance and these huge boxes of groceries to make ends meet.

Nearby, the Pinellas County School District is counting its own boxes of food at its warehouse in Largo. 

The district receives approximately 750 cases of food daily at the Walter Pownall Service Center to ensure hot meals, both breakfast and lunch, are free and available during the summer months for every child between the ages of 5 and 18-years old.

“They (families) want access to healthy, nutritious meals and we’re here to provide that for them,” said Samantha Marina, the assistant director of food and nutrition for Pinellas Schools. “You’ll come to the school. They’ll invite you in with open arms to make sure you’re going to get that meal. It’ll be fun and exciting, and you’ll be able to pick out that breakfast or pick out that lunch the child will be able to eat.”

This summer, Marina expects to reach at least 50,000 kids in Pinellas County at more than 90 school campuses as part of its Summer Break Spot program. Approximately 400,000 breakfast and lunch meals were served throughout the county last year.

Positive Impact Ministries stated it saw similar statistics in 2023 with food assistance reaching thousands of families and two million meals distributed during the 12-month time frame.

“It’s a real good blessing to provide for my family,” said Willingham as she carried her box of groceries filled with essential items, including bread, fruit, vegetables and milk.

Positive Impact Ministries holds its free grocery distribution every Saturday morning from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. in St. Petersburg. 

The Summer BreakSpot federal food service program for children and teenagers starts June 3. To see the closest school campus or food site near you, including operating hours, click here and enter your zip code. 

All school-aged children in Spectrum Bay News 9’s viewing area are eligible for free breakfast and lunch this summer. 

IDEA Public Schools to Offer FREE Meals to All Children This Summer

IDEA Public Schools’ Child Nutrition Program (CNP) is excited to announce they will be serving FREE meals during the summer to any child in the community age 18 and younger beginning Wednesday, June 5 through Friday, July 26, whether they are an IDEA student or not.

The offering is made possible through the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program.

According to Feeding America, one in five children in Florida face hunger.

The free meals are part of IDEA’s commitment to local communities to help promote a healthy and active lifestyle through the Seamless Summer Meals Option.

For the children who rely on school meals during the academic year, these meals offer a source of good nutrition when school is out for the long summer vacation.

Click here for IDEA Public School locations in the Bay area.