Tampa Rep. Jackie Toledo is working to increase funding for a Feeding Tampa Bay workforce training program.
Feeding Tampa Bay FRESHforce is a coalition of nonprofits, government and businesses that work to provide training to food insecure individuals with barriers to employment.
Last year, Toledo was successful in securing $255,000 for the program. This year, she’s seeking $400,000.
“They’ve been focused on feeding families and serving the needs, especially during COVID,” Toledo said about Feeding Tampa Bay. “They’re expanding on what they do, and empowering other people … They teach them skills so that they can, in essence, feed themselves and feed their family.”
The non-reoccurring request would provide funding for salaries — $333,935 would be divided among the chief program officer, the finance and HR offices, the assistant program director, warehouse staff and scholarships. Of the remaining amount, $63,565 would go to training supplies and $2,500 would be used for Hunger Action Alliance research.
The $400,000 from the state would fund about 58% of the project, with remaining funding ($287,500) coming from other private donors.
However, with the state’s significant budget challenges expected this year due to the economic impact of COVID-19, it may be more challenging for Toledo to secure funding.
The state remains in a tough budget posture as economists had projected a 6.1% drop in revenue. That number was later revised down $1.49 billion to $32.48 billion — still sitting far lower than in previous years.
The program provides certification in culinary arts, warehouse logistics and commercial driving for residents in Citrus, Hardee, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sumter counties.
Business partners are involved in the programs curriculum via “Industry Councils” that hire skilled participants.
According to the funding request, the average starting salary for those completing the program is $30,000, making the total financial footprint through this program up to $4.2 million annually.
“Like everyone else, I think they’re afraid of the future and how they’re going to be able to serve the community,” Toledo said about pandemic woes. “But, I think they’re depending on private partnerships, and for the community to step up — and I think the Tampa Bay Community has done a really good job.”