Local elementary school opens food pantry to help support students

Clair-Mel Elementary School in Tampa has opened a new food pantry to combat child hunger among students.

Because 98 percent of their students qualify for free and reduced lunch, school principal Rick Grayes and school social worker, Delora Campbell, saw a need for the pantry.

“I had a lot of kids coming to me saying they didn’t have food in the refrigerator,” Campbell said. “A lot of parents coming to me saying ‘I have to make a decision on whether I can afford to pay my rent or feed my children.’”

One of those children was third-grader Heaven-Leigh Gillisford.

“When I didn’t have food in my refrigerator, it was butterflies in my stomach,” Heaven-Leigh said.

Clair-Mel partnered with the Just Full Service Center, a Tampa food distributor for the needy, and received a $2,000 grant to open the pantry.

The pantry is available for all students and families. Grayes and Campbell want the parents to know that they are there for support.

“We are very excited,” Grayes said. “This is the way that we are trying to provide a layer of support, and ultimately this is going to help students be successful in life.”

Clair-Mel has partnered with Feeding Tampa Bay and has applied for grants from Walmart. Their hope is to continue to receive donations in order to make sure the pantry stays open to help feed the students.