Kurt and Teresa Long pose for a photo on their boat.
Kurt and Teresa Long

Feeding Florida families amid COVID-19

Kurt and Teresa Long hope to provide more than 500,000 meals to local children and families with a match donation to Feeding Tampa Bay

For Kurt and Teresa Long, life amid the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t altered too drastically. The St. Petersburg couple feels lucky to say that the biggest change to their lives is limiting their outings to only the grocery store.

The Longs recognize, though, that they don’t share the same reality as many of their fellow Floridians.  

The reality is that the state of Florida has only been able to process about 4% of its unemployment claims, leaving more than 850,000 applications still in the queue. With one in four people reporting someone in their household has lost a job, food banks have seen a 400% increase in demand over the past few weeks.

“People say ‘we’re in this together’ a lot right now, but that doesn’t mean we’re all having the same experience,” Teresa said.

Kurt (BSBA ’84) added, “We’re not going to miss a meal, but there’s so many people who, even before this, were living week to week, and now are living day to day.”

Seeing the impact the coronavirus pandemic has made on their beloved home state, the Longs couldn’t turn a blind eye to the realities of their fellow Floridians and leapt to action. Kurt and Teresa recently made a dollar-for-dollar match donation of up to $50,000 to Feeding Tampa Bay. With their $100,000 goal, the Longs hope to provide more than 500,000 meals to children and families in the Tampa area.

As part of the campaign, donors can choose to purchase food from a list of items, including 36 jars of tomato pasta sauce, 108 bags of brown rice, 144 jars of natural peanut butter and more. Items purchased will be made available to families in need at mobile pantries and sites that provide daily healthy, hot to-go meals. 

“Now is the time for all of us in our communities to look locally for how we can be a part of the solution while we wait this out in our homes,” Kurt said. “We will get through this by all doing what we can for our community and neighbors.”

Choosing to give back was an easy decision for the Longs, as it’s a core philosophy in themselves and in their businesses. Of the companies that the entrepreneurial couple has built, and later sold, philanthropy has always been an important aspect.

“As partners, we’ve always found a way to give back to the community,” Kurt said. “I have these beliefs about capitalism, that it needs to be better aligned with helping people. It’s really our philosophy that, as business people, yes, we compete in the marketplace, but we also want to improve the lives of our customers and people in the community.”

It’s the Longs’ hope that people will tap into their sense of compassion for others during the challenging times we find ourselves in and give what they can, with gifts both small and large.  

 “There are so many people from Florida, especially University of Florida graduates, that have done well for themselves,” Kurt said. “It’s been a wonderful place for us and our successes. [Successful business leaders] tend to think globally, but right now we need to be thinking about our local community.

“This state has given us so much, so now it’s time for us to give back.”

As of April 20, the Long’s campaign has raised almost $65,000 for families in need, with an additional substantial donation from Kurt’s UF roommate coming soon. Kurt and Teresa are astounded by people’s generosity and thrilled to be even closer to their goal.