Thursday, the NFL and a non-profit called Feeding Tampa Bay passed out nearly 2,000 meals to those in need.By Casey Albritton

TAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – Many struggling families in the Tampa Bay Area now have dinner for the next couple of days. Thursday, the NFL and a non-profit called Feeding Tampa Bay passed out nearly 2,000 meals to those in need.

Melissa Schiller who works with the NFL says, “It has been a year of struggle for a lot of families and food is one thing that is a basic human right for everyone.” For many people in the Tampa Bay Area, their focus this week is not on the Super Bowl, but rather on how to find their next meal. Tampa Bay resident, Duane Cooper, says “With all my health problems, I can at least know I’m going to get something to eat.”

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Matt Spence works with Feeding Tampa Bay, an organization that provides free food to those in need, and says because of the pandemic, fresh meals are needed more than ever. “We’ve seen our demand almost double. There’s now over a million people in Tampa Bay who are food insecure.”

Since the Super Bowl is in Tampa this year, the NFL wanted to leave behind a legacy, so it donated a quarter of a million dollars to Feeding Tampa Bay. Schiller remarked of the donation, “If this is how we can help, this is how we wanted to help.”

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Spence commended the donation, adding detail on intent with the NFL’s gift. “They liked the idea that it supports local restaurants since they are the ones who prepare the meals and it supports the community.”

For Duane Cooper though, food is a luxury since Covid has taken a toll on his industry. “I was working for a limousine company and in the pandemic, they lost most of their business and they had to let a lot of drivers go.” The Super Bowl isn’t just a football game. For Cooper, he’s thankful for the donation as it brings hope. “If you don’t have food on the table, you can’t survive, so it’s better when people help out.”

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Feeding Tampa Bay organizers plan to pass out 60,000 meals to families over the course of the next year. To find ways you can help those in need, interested persons can visit Feeding Tampa Bay’s volunteer calendar.