Feed Tampa's Unsheltered Population

Once a month we prepare food and care packages to distribute to individuals experiencing homelessness in Downtown and South Tampa. To date, we have fed over 200 individuals and families. 


According to Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative (THHI), who conducted a count of individuals experiencing homelessness, there are 672 out of 1,650 individuals living unsheltered in Tampa (Tampa/Hillsborough County COC, 2019). Unsheltered means that “41% slept in places not meant for habitation, like at a park, in a car, or abandoned building, or elsewhere on the street” (Tampa/Hillsborough County COC, 2019). 236 of those individuals live in Downtown Tampa and 34 live in South Tampa (Tampa/Hillsborough County COC, 2019).


We are closely working with a Dietician Intern, Heather Jones, who created a flyer that lists affordable, healthy foods and beverages. In her article, she briefly discusses malnutrition in individuals experiencing homelessness, specifically those who suffer from alcoholism and substance abuse.

You can donate items in person or through our Amazon wishlist here.

Healthy Food Options for Individuals Experiencing Homelessness
By Heather Jones, RD2Be
February 1, 2020

The homeless population is at risk for vitamin and mineral deficiencies due to their lacking diet. The majority of the homeless population we serve lack affordable housing and are unemployed, domestic violence victims, substance abuse, or suffer from mental illness.


We believe that no one should go hungry and should have access to nutritional food. According to the systematic review by Jean Wiecha, adult alcoholics had 30 to 70 percent higher rates of malnutrition (including anemia), gastrointestinal disorders, and hypertension than nonalcoholics, while drug abusers had 40 percent more anemia compared to others.Homeless substance abusers are at a higher risk of low food intake due to their limited access and potentially incapacitated state. Heavy drinking can lead to irritation of their digestive system and fewer nutrients being absorbed. Fewer nutrients absorbed means less nutrients in the blood and a greater chance for disease and deficiencies. Donating nutrient-dense  (foods full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals) can help replenish their deficiencies. 


Considering the living conditions of the people we serve, we are looking for donations that are shelf-stable and can be carried easily. Below is a list of foods that are nutrient-dense with a description of the nutrients and how these foods will benefit this population. 


Fresh Fruit:

-       Cuties (mandarins)

-       Navel Oranges

-       Valencia Oranges

-       Apples (small bag)

-       Pears

Canned/Packaged Fruit:

-       Fruit cups: mandarin, peach, pineapple, etc.

-       Apple sauce

-       100% fruit juice

Citrus fruits like oranges or mandarins are a great source of vitamin C.  A deficiency in vitamin C can lead to scurvy. Signs and symptoms of scurvy are bleeding gums/loss of teeth, easy bruising, impaired wound/fracture healing, and more. Apples are also a good source of vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiency  is rare in the U.S, but a deficiency can lead to night blindness (the inability to see in the dark) and dry/scaly skin. 


-       Peanut butter

-       String cheese or cheese sticks

-       Trail mix (avoid trail mix with M&Ms or candy) focus on

         mixes with dried fruit or a variety of nuts. 

-       Tuna Packets

-       Jerky

-       Protein Bars


Peanuts, nuts, and tuna are a great source of healthy fats, and almonds provide a non-dairy source of calcium. Tuna is also a great source of vitamin D and vitamin A. String cheese can provide calcium, and protein bars have a high amount of protein to help keep the homeless full for a longer amount of time. 



  • Small cereal boxes

  • Granola bars 

  • Pretzels 

  • Whole Grain crackers


Cereals and whole grains are a great source of B vitamins. B vitamins are water-soluble vitamins, meaning they are not stored in the body for long periods of time and need to be replenished more often. People with an alcohol dependence are more likely deficient in vitamin B because alcohol minimizes the absorption of B vitamins. They are consuming less food because alcohol is calorically-dense which can make someone feel full and eat less, and if someone is incapacitated they are less likely to eat. Cereals like Cheerios, Special K, or Kellogs usually have vitamins and minerals added to them to make them more nutrient-dense. 


1. Wiecha JL, Dwyer JT, Dunn-Strohecker M. Nutrition and health services needs among the homeless. Public Health Rep. 1991;106(4):364-374.

2. Tampa/Hillsborough County COC. (2019, February 28). Hillsborough County Homeless Point-In-Time Counts. Retrieved from Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Intiative: https://thhi.org/about-homelessness/homeless-counts/