When Amber Chancey and her husband, Paul, moved to Wesley Chapel in 2016, the couple had no idea the impact they would have on their new community.
They did know that they wanted the best education for their children, and they also knew that a healthy, balanced meal played a vital role in this.
Meanwhile, Susan Coffey, a third-grade teacher, and several colleagues at Double Branch Elementary School noticed there were children in classes who were constantly tired, hungry or asking to be allowed to take their school food home.
Double Branch already was collecting food donations to send home to families on a month-to-month basis.
And, when the Chanceys learned about the situation, they began brainstorming on how to better address the needs of hungry children.
That led to the creation of the Full Circle Food Outreach program, which began in February 2018.
“We thought this was an easier, more consistent way to get the food to the kids,” said Amber Chancey, who is the program’s president.
The food outreach works like this: Students either openly express a need, or school staff notices signs — such as a student falling behind academically, or not concentrating in class.
Once a need is determined, parents must agree to be part of the program, in order to receive a supply of food intended to last through the weekend.
After school on Fridays, each student that is participating receives a food bag with 13 nonperishable items, consisting of two breakfasts, two lunches and snacks.
“We wanted these students to have the same opportunity to benefit from their education,” Chancey said, regarding the intent of Full Circle Food Outreach. “They’re not coming to school hungry, and they’re able to focus.”
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), an estimated 6.5 million children live in households with an insufficient food supply, and roughly 16 percent of those homes have children under the age of 6.
Full Circle’s efforts have helped fill that gap at two Wesley Chapel schools, with Double Branch Elementary currently serving 21 students through the program, and Quail Hollow Elementary with 47 students.
One event that helped make this possible was a collaboration between Full Circle and the All Pro Dad organization, in which students’ fathers helped collect food donations on May 4.
The outreach also has received help from the community, when Full Circle hosted a “Stock-the-Pantry” food drive for the entire month of July.
Several local businesses volunteered themselves as drop-off locations for food donations, including NYE Commercial Advisors, New Tampa Chiropractic and Injury Center, Carmel Friendship Church, My Gym New Tampa, Faith Baptist Church and Premier Gymnastics.
The GFWC New Tampa Junior Woman’s Club also has contributed food and money.
A Stock-the-Pantry party was held at the Country Walk Clubhouse in Wesley Chapel on July 28 to showcase the collected food donations, amounting to a value of more than $2,000.
Open to the public with refreshments, the function also raised an additional $250 from raffle tickets for items such as two Chuy’s Dinner certificates, a girl’s cruiser bike and a two-night stay at a Northwest Florida condo.
According to the foundation, $5 is enough to feed one student for a weekend, and it is striving for the goal of collecting $17,000 for the 2018-2019 school year, allocating some 2,720 food bags.
Chancey wants to provide services to more schools in Pasco County, but because Full Circle is a nonprofit organization, it must depend on community and business contributions to expand its work.
Her objective is not only to ensure that students are well-nourished, but that they learn the importance of charitable work and, eventually, will give back to others.
“Potentially, they’re going to make better grades, that’s going to help them progress and end up in a better place as an adult,” she said.
To enroll a student in the program or to make a donation online, visit FullCircleFoodOutreach.org.
Published November 7, 2018