PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – With Tampa Bay Buccaneers cheerleaders and mascot Captain Fear in attendance, the drive-through event at the Northwest Presbyterian Church Thursday afternoon felt like a pep rally before Super Bowl LV.
“It’s a really good feeling to drive through here,” Michael Doane told 8 On Your Side.
But it was actually a food distribution event that is part of the NFL wanting to leave a legacy in Tampa Bay after the big game.
“Even before the Bucs were gonna be here, they wanted to make an impact on the Tampa Bay area,” said Matt Spence, the chief programs officer for Feeding Tampa Bay.
NFL Director of Community Relations Melissa Schiller explained why the league wanted to team up with the non-profit that is focused on ending hunger.
“This year specifically due to the pandemic, it’s obviously a very tough year for everyone,” she said. “Food insecurity across our country is through the roof and when we knew we were coming here we said how can we make the biggest difference.”
The NFL is making a $250,000 donation to support a program called “Huddle to Tackle Hunger” the donation will support the program for 44 weeks.
“Basically paying local restaurants to create meals and then we can distribute those to folks in need in our community,” Spence said.
At his annual Super Bowl week press conference Thursday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell praised Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, Hillsborough County and the Super Bowl host committee for its preparations and adjustments during the pandemic.
“As we looked and challenged them,” Goodell said, “they came up with solutions, so this community has done an absolutely extraordinary job.”
As Sloane waited for his meals to go, a bag of Campbell’s canned soups and an NFL swag bag, he said he’s noticed a big difference with the big game in town.
“It’s so much more positive,” Sloane said. “People are kinder, letting you in line in traffic. I took my wife to the doctor two days ago and it was the best to and from trip we’ve had since the pandemic so i think it makes a difference. Go Bucs!”
Tampa Bay is not feeling the full economic impact this week because of the pandemic and limited capacity in Raymond James Stadium on Sunday night.
Commissioner Goodell said Tampa could get special consideration from team owners to host the next available Super Bowl.