Manatee County food drive to commence in September

vmannix@bradenton.comAugust 13, 2013 

BRADENTON -- Cindy Sloan read off each name tag taped to the shelves as she walked along the middle aisle of the Food Bank of Manatee's warehouse Monday morning.

Canned meats, cereal, dry meals, pasta and vegetables were just some of the tags.

The shelves were empty.

"This is the food the agencies want, food families can make a meal of," said Sloan, the Food Bank's director. "And we're out."

Not for long, hopefully.

Manatee County Commissioners Carol Whitmore and Vanessa Baugh and state Rep. Jim Boyd are spearheading the Grand Challenge, Manatee County's September food drive for the Food Bank of Manatee.

A press conference is scheduled Aug. 21.

Area groups, organizations and businesses will each be asked to raise 1,000 pounds or $1,000 or a combination of the two for the Food Bank.

"Just before school starts is when the need is most critical," Whitmore said. "When we see there is such a shortage, the community should step up no matter when it is."

Last year's inaugural challenge helped refill the shelves with more than 100,000 pounds of food. It also raised $55,000 in cash donations.

"We had 103 businesses come through for us that never had barrels before," Sloan said. "The response was wonderful and I'm hoping there's more where that came from."

About 100 agencies depend on the Food Bank -- churches, after-school programs and more -- for shelf-stable food that enables them to make up a box or basket of provisions on the spot for the needy.

"I've been there when women go in and say, 'You can't tell my husband I came here,' because they don't believe in handouts," Whitmore said. "It's heartbreaking."

Food donations to the Food Bank peak in March and are apportioned to last as long as possible. Its warehouse is able to hold nearly 220,000 pounds of shelf-stable food, according to Sloan.

Presently, it has about 25,000 pounds and does not include government supplies of juice, tomato sauce and other items.

"Donations dwindle in summer, but the need increases," said Kristen Theisen, development director for Meals on Wheels PLUS. "It's a reminder for people: Hunger is year round."

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix

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