It’s easy to forget that there’s need in Walton County. We’re bombarded by real estate ads selling homes that are listed for millions of dollars along 30A and we’re surrounded by beautiful developments. But there is need. A lot of it. And sometimes it comes from unexpected places, like a family with a medical emergency, or a parent who suddenly loses a job. Other times it’s a problem of not being able to find a job that pays a high enough wage, or an ex-spouse who doesn’t pay child support. The beautiful thing about the Food for Thought program is that they don’t care what the reason is. They don’t even know who they are helping. They just help. Day in and day out they work to ensure kids aren’t hungry.

Here’s how it works:

  • FFT offers its services to students who are on the free and reduced lunch program. Pre-school, elementary, middle and high schools are served.

  • FFT provides permission slips to schools for enrollment.

  • At no point does FFT contact families or even know who they are.

  • FFT offers four year-round services:

    • The Friday Backpack Program

    • In-school emergency snack program

    • Summer Services

    • Thanksgiving and Christmas Services

The backpack program provides a backpack filled with 10 healthy, easy to prepare food items. These backpacks are left at the school for students to take home at the end of the day.

  • On Monday the empty bookbag is picked up by FFT and used again for the upcoming Friday delivery.

As of September 2016, FFT is serving more than 1,600 students who are living in food insecure homes.

The Friday Backpack Program currently has 1,580 enrolled in Walton and Okaloosa counties. That means there are 1,580 families who aren’t confident they can feed their children every weekend.

Let that sink in.

More than 1,500 kids in Walton and Okaloosa counties are dealing with hunger every Sunday morning. During the upcoming Winter break 900 families will need meals to get them through the break from school.

Tiffanie Nelson, founder and director of FFT, said she’s determined to find a way to help these children long-term. One struggle has been how to get high school students to participate in FFTs services. Tiffanie knew that if FFT could create a program that would be of interest (and fun) for high school kids, they would be more likely to receive services.

That’s when she got the idea of building a commercial kitchen.

We’ve seen a struggle with this age group to accept help within the school,” Tiffanie said.

The Pierce Family, Howard Hospitality, and O.B. Laurent Construction heard about the idea and jumped in to fund what has been dubbed “The Full Circle Kitchen.” It’s being built within the FFT warehouse and is on schedule to be completed by early next year.

We will host classes for children and adults that will be provided for a donation and these funds will help support the funds needed to provide the services to the high school students,” Tiffanie explained. “We see this as a path to ending the cycle of poverty in our community as we aim to help the students find jobs after high school.”

Here’s how you can help:

  • Volunteer at FFT. Take the kids with you. It’s a great learning experience.

  • Donate non-perishable food items.

  • Give $30 to the Holiday Giving program.

  • Attend a cooking class (once available).

  • Host your own food drives. Chiringo restaurant partner Andy McKoski requested food and monetary donations to FFT in lieu of wedding gifts for his October nuptials. It would be a fun idea for a birthday party too. Afterwards the birthday boy or girl could help deliver the food to FFT.

  • Participate in FFT fundraisers.

According to Tiffanie, 27% of children in Walton County and 25% of children in Okaloosa County live in food insecure homes. That means there are 13,000 children experiencing hunger.

We are not reaching all of these children,” she said.

Ready to help?

Donate online at fftfl.org.

Questions? Ideas? Email Tiffanie at info@fftfl.org.