TAMPA, Fla. - Three years ago, a pair of Palm Harbor University High School students started a school project to earn community service hours.
That project has blossomed into a successful non-profit that has provided more than 40,000 meals to foster families.
"We cook for an army at once, so normally we make one thing, and we make a lot of it, so it feeds a lot of people," explained Samantha Kopec of Feeding the Fosters, Inc.
It started as a Bright Futures project after sisters Laura and Samantha Kopec recognized food insecurity in their own neighborhoods.
Through their family's Italian background they decided they could help through food.
"And so we started providing meals to a group home every week in our own neighborhood," Laura said.
"And just seeing the kids reactions and how happy the foster parents were that they were able to spend more time with their kids during the day instead of grocery shopping and meal prepping was really heartwarming, and just hugging the kids and getting that rush of you're doing something good in their world was really just something that you can't describe," Samantha added.
They cook for families one or two times a week using food surplus they collect from stores and restaurants like Einstein Bagels, Olive Garden, Carrabba’s, and Panera.
"We make the most of our resources, especially with the food surplus, but we definitely need volunteers just to spend their time helping us," Samantha said. "It doesn't even have to be money. Just spending the time in the kitchen preparing a meal is super helpful. Taking the time to deliver a meal to a foster family is so helpful, and just getting involved in any way you can will really help uplift these families and allow them to take in more children and really care for them."
Anyone interested in more information or helping the organization should visit https://www.feedingthefostersinc.com/.