Local charity helps feed students in Orange County

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - A local charity is trying to make sure students in Orange County have something to eat when they get home.

The Love Pantry is now handing out food at nearly one-third of the schools in the county, but Channel 9’s Lori Brown found they still have a long way to go to help every hungry child.

Jessica Popov, a counselor at Howard Middle School, is used to rounding up donations for teens that are hungry from a weekend without a meal.

"I had friends donating, teachers donating in. It was a grassroots effort," she said.

To address student hunger issues, BB&T donated $1 million to Polk, Osceola, Seminole and Orange county schools.

Some of that money is going to provide 14 pantry cabinets, along with a year's supply of emergency food.

The Christian Service Center will keep the cabinets stocked.

“Many of the kids who eat breakfast and lunch here don't have food at home,” said Commissioner Rober Stuart of the CSC.

The 6 by-3-foot cabinets don't look like much, but what's inside provides kids with a better life.

“By having that there, you can put a smile on their face and a meal in their stomach,” Popov said.

“If they come to school and don't have to worry about food and where they're going to sleep, they can accomplish academically at very high levels,” said Orange County Public Schools Superintendent Barbara Jenkins.

Popov said she saw that firsthand last year.

“(A student) wasn't eating when he got home. His dad was working a night shift, and they didn't have food in the house,” she said. “His behavior improved right alongside the food being provided."

Now, Popov can provide that food to every student who needs it at Howard Middle School, which has 55 homeless students this year.