Elks Feeding Empty Little Tummies (E.F.E.L.T.) began delivering food to homeless and food deprived children on January 6, 2011, after we became aware of over a thousand “homeless” children in the Manatee County School System. We were awarded a $10,000 start-up grant from the Elks National Foundation and in conjunction with the Manatee County School System, identified children ages five through twelve who were identified as "homeless" or living in "Food Deprived homes".
The Schools identify these children, and the Elks provide food through a discreet and confidential process. The meals and snacks are processed by over 100 volunteers, placed in backpacks and delivered to the school on Fridays for distribution.
The food items are non-perishable, recommended by the School Board Nutritional Department, and purchased from "The Food Bank" operated by Meals on Wheels of Manatee County, Sam’s Club/Wal-Mart, Save-a-Lot, Publix and other local groceries. The food is stored, processed and packed in two FDA inspected and donated facilities. A local businessman has donated a 2,500-square foot facility in the Mount Vernon Plaza where we provide to children attending elementary schools in west Manatee County and our second facility, donated by Freedom Elementary School, provides to east Manatee County elementary schools. Both are staffed by over 100 volunteers from the Bradenton Elks Lodge #1511, the Elkettes from Bradenton Lodge, Lakewood Ranch – Sarasota Lodge #2855 and scores of concerned citizens from both communities.
Since January 2011, and as of the end of 2016, we have provided 570,320 meals containing 1,284,500 items to 111,720 children, ages 5 to 12 in twelve different Manatee County Elementary Schools. That amounts to 446,880 pounds of food (223 tons).
Volunteerism is alive and well within Elks Feeding Empty Little Tummies. There are no paid employees or reimbursed expense, hence no administrative cost. Since January, 2011 our one hundred plus volunteers comprised of mostly Elks, and Elkettes and other caring members of our community have logged over 18,000 hours of service, and have driven in excess of 100,000 miles to and from our sites, including the distance associated with delivering the backpacks with food, picking up the empty backpacks and bringing them to our facility, purchasing and loading food and transporting it to our facility.
The problem of poverty is pervasive and can be overwhelming. Around the world, more than one billion people are malnourished. An estimated 1.4 billion people live on less than $1.25 a day. Every day children are dying just because they don't have enough food to eat. That's a tragedy that should not occur. One out of every five children in the United States lives at or under the poverty level.
Though masked by our prosperity-focused culture, poverty is a serious issue right here at home, and the problem has only become more serious in our hurting economy. More than half of all poor children in America live in eight states—California, Illinois, Michigan, Texas, New York, Florida, Ohio, and Georgia. Unfortunately, the children suffer the most. No child should suffer from hunger—especially when we can do something about it!
We are E.F.E.L.T.
2017 Executive Committee of the Board of Directors: