Kiwanis Club of Greater Brandon
Childhood hunger is a great challenge facing the United States. One in six children does not receive proper daily nutrition. The need is even greater in the Tampa Bay area. In West Central Florida, an estimated 250,000 children go hungry every day. The problem is especially acute in areas with economically disadvantaged families.
A hungry child has difficulty concentrating, exhibits poor performance in school, and suffers limited intellectual, physical, and emotional development. He or she frequently gets sick and can experience social and behavioral problems. The greatest risk is for hindered cognitive development.
The challenging need of childhood hunger moved the Kiwanis Club of Greater Brandon to address this problem directly. In partnership with Feeding Tampa Bay and the Mosaic Company, Kiwanis created Project Smile to provide weekend food for children at a local elementary school in Gibsonton, where 95% of the student population qualifies for free breakfast and lunch. If it weren’t for Project Smile, or the Smile Club as the children call it, many students at Gibsonton Elementary might go hungry over the weekend. According to Kiwanian Mike Daigle, this is the greatest motivation for Project Smile. He personally observed how food challenged children react at school. Some kids will just eat and eat because once they leave school in the afternoon, they know they might not get anything to eat until school the next day.
For the last four years, the “Smile Club” has been providing food to children at Gibsonton School. Every Friday during the school year, volunteers arrive at school to greet the children and distribute food. Project Smile has grown from serving 100 students in 2012 to 175 this past year. The goal is to be able to feed 200 students in school year 2016-17.
The “Smile Club” has been able to supplement the food bags with donations from Wish Farms who have provided fresh strawberries and blueberries. For the 2016-17 school year, the goal is to expand the addition of locally grown food by adding produce at least one Friday a month.
This program would not be possible without the joint commitment of Feeding Tampa Bay, Mosaic, and Kiwanis Club of Greater Brandon. Project Smile needs your support. How can you help? Every donation goes directly towards the purchase of food. Every little bit helps. Your donation is tax deductible. The Kiwanis Club of Greater Brandon Foundation is a 501 C3 charitable organization under IRS rules. (EIN 59-3374183). If you want more information or have questions about Project Smile, please go to Facebook page , CLICK HERE .
The program is named Project Smile (or “Smile Club”) because of the smiling faces of the children as they receive a bag of food. “At least one or more of the kids will come out and say, ‘This is for my grandmother,’ or ‘This is for my little brother or sister to have food for the weekend,’” said Steve Saunders, a Kiwanis volunteer. However, according to Janet Daigle, President of the Kiwanis Club, “The children are not the only ones smiling. It is hard not to take home a smile of your own after this rewarding experience.”
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