By Tamas Mondovics

Gibsonton Elementary School students and their families enjoyed a special gift at the start of this year’s holiday season and winter break.

For the fourth year in a row, Mosaic Company partnered with Feeding Tampa Bay (FTB) to provide holiday meals for more than 700 students and their families at Gibsonton Elementary School who did not have access to subsidized school meals while off campus.

Greeted by Mosaic employee-volunteers and FTB staff, each student received a special food box with all the makings for a complete holiday dinner that included ham, roast beef, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, green beans, sweet potatoes, stuffing and gravy.

FTB was able to provide the meals to the students and their families that experienced an increased financial burden over the holidays, thanks to a $15,000 grant from Mosaic.

Mosaic and FTB officials said that a main reason for the effort has to do with the fact that food insecure children often have meals when they are at school, but when they are out of school (evenings, weekends, holiday and summer break), they have little to no food.

“Holiday bags are given so the children can leave for holiday break knowing they will be able to eat,” said Feeding Tampa Bay Communications Manager, Jayci Peters. “We know that food is a vital part of a child’s life. It helps them focus on their education, allows them to fully develop and grow and reduces the risk of disease.”

Peters emphasized that Mosaic actually chose the school when it started the event in 2012.

“Mosaic wanted a school both in their territory and one that was high-need and have built the relationship with the school since it started,” she said. “Gibsonton is in their footprint and is on 95 percent free and reduced lunch, so it was a perfect fit.”

Sadly Gibsonton is by no means the only community needing food assistance.

According to FTB officials, as many as 250,000 children in the Tampa Bay area suffer from hunger.

Over the last five years, Feeding Tampa Bay supplied more than 100 million pounds of food, enough to provide more than 3 million meals every month to those who would otherwise go hungry.

For more information about Feeding Tampa Bay, visit www.FeedingTampaBay.org. For more information about Mosaic, visit www.mosaicco.com/Florida.