The Food Bank of Manatee County announced on Aug. 23 that it was 85 percent empty or at 15 percent of total capacity.
The Food Bank serves 100 agencies that serve food to 60,000 people monthly. School Board member Julie Aranibar says the hunger epidemic affects 2,000 or 3,000 homeless children in the community.
The Food Bank issued a Grand Challenge to the community, asking for groups or organizations to raise 1,000 pounds of food, $1,000, or a combination of both in the month of September. Senior, Melissa McFall, heard about the food bank crisis from her key club Kiwanis advisor Jeff Zientara, and once she saw the cry for help the food bank advertised in the Bradenton Herald she took on the challenge and volunteered to lead a food drive at Braden River.
The Braden River Key Club does an annual food drive in November for Thanksgiving with Mayor's Feed the Hungry. Junior and Secretary of Key Club, Tayler Shreve, who was the co-chair of the food drive this year says it was a struggle putting the drive together in a short amount of time, "but it also brought a sense of urgency because we became aware of the need of the food drive and in the end, it was worth it."
Competition is sparked through the food drive every year by rewarding the first period class that has the highest average of donations per person with a breakfast party. An added bonus this year was that Key Club delivered the teacher with the winning class lunch for a week. It was a close competition, but ultimately Mrs. Harwood's first period class prevailed with an average of 10.6 cans/donations per person.
"I knew my students would respond well because I mainly teach upperclassmen and they have the ability to go out and get goods on their own, "Harwood said.
Juan Garcia, senior and vice president of the National Honor Society, contributed over 30 goods to Harwood's class.
"I like helping out people. We have the canned goods at home and they needed it more than we do. I've been in that position before, so I like giving back," Garcia said.
In addition to the first-period contest a few other ideas were implemented this year to raise participation. Braden River had its first kiss-a-pig contest. Students donated their spare change at lunch to whichever one of the staff member volunteers they wanted to see kiss a pig. All donations went directly to the Food Bank and contributed to the Grand Challenge. Mr. Nelson swept the lead in the contest with over $75 donated towards him, so he kissed Future Farmers of America's pig at the homecoming bonfire pep rally on Thursday night.
"It's one of those awards that you don't really want to win, but it was for a good cause and that's why I did it," Nelson said.
A total of $206 was raised through this amusing contest.
Permission was granted from the Athletic Director, Bob Bowling, to allow students to bring five canned goods to the home football game on Sept. 21 against Riverview High School. Through this opportunity, 315 cans were collected, and the school's grand total was about 3,315 non-perishable items and $206. That is over three times what the school raised in 2011, when it collected 1,100 canned good items.
"I think everyone in our community should do what they can to help," senior Wendy Laza says. Other organizations such as Entre Nous, which donated $10,000 to the Food Bank last week, are doing their part in replenishing Manatee County's main source of food for the hungry.
"It is so easy to get caught up in our own lives" Stephanie Gray, president of Key Club, said. "We need to remember to help the people in our community that are in need of basic necessities."