Feeding hungry Manatee children a bit easier this summer

rdymond@bradenton.comMay 19, 2014 

MANATEE -- Like thousands of other Manatee County moms, Leticia Quevedo has youngsters who love to eat and will be growing like weeds this summer.

All five of Quevedo's children, including Alexis, 14; Justin, 9; Isaac, 6; Juan, 3; and Emilio, 1, are big eaters and keep the refrigerator contents perpetually dwindling at the family's apartment near Bayshore Gardens at 908 60th Ave. Terrace W., Quevedo said.

Quevedo's husband, Oscar Medellin, works two jobs, as a welder during the day and a cook at night, but the family bills don't leave much left over for food and the family needs help at times, Quevedo said.

Quevedo counts on the food pantry at St. George's Episcopal Church, 912 63rd Ave. W., which is supplied by the Food Bank of Manatee, to keep her family going.

"It's hard," Quevedo said. "My kids can really eat. St. George's is a huge help. I know I will go there during the summer when the kids are out of school."

With the public's help, the food bank might make it through summer crunch time for Quevedo and others without a steep decline in reserves, which was not the case last year, said Jill McGarry, marketing manager for Meals on Wheels PLUS of Manatee at Renaissance on 9th, which runs the

food bank.

"The unique thing this year is that we are holding our 'White Out' hunger campaign in June to prevent the crisis that occurred last summer when demand for food increases and donations decrease," McGarry said.

The Food Bank of Manatee is asking community leaders to help "White Out" summer hunger beginning in June by leading food drives in their businesses and organizations as part of a Grand Challenge.

"The Grand Challenge asks local businesses, clubs and civic organizations to each raise 1,000 pounds of food, one $1,000 or a combination of the two throughout June," said Kristen Theisen, chief development officer for Meals on Wheels PLUS of Manatee. "This year's Challenge will be held at the onset of summer in hopes that the Food Bank of Manatee's shelves stay well-stocked throughout the busy summer months."

"We will see some increase in food bank use with school out," said Pat Sircy, St. George's pantry coordinator.

White Out Hunger Party

Theisen said this year's challenge will be tied in with the traditional June 5 "White Out Hunger Party."

Besides being a St. George client, Quevedo also likes to give back. After getting her food, she distributes food to others on food day from 9-11 a.m. on the first and third Thursday of the month.

She also donates clothing her children have outgrown to the church.

"I love to help people out in times of need," Quevedo said. "I like to bring stuff over there because I would love for another child to wear what my kids have grown out of."

Quevedo said she was surprised Friday when told her school-age children, who qualify for free and reduced meals at school during the school year -- Daughtrey Elementary with Justin and Isaac and Harllee Middle for Alexis -- can continue to eat at Manatee schools this summer after school is out June 9.

"I had no idea," Quevedo said.

As in past years, the Manatee County School District will offer a Summer Food Service Program funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture during June, July and August, said Mike Barber, school district spokesman.

Last year, 20 Manatee County area schools offered nutritionally balanced meals to all children regardless of race, color, sex, disability, age or nation origin during summer vacation when school breakfasts and lunches were not available, Barber said.

Children don't have to go to their home schools to get the meals, Barber added.

"The list of schools where the program will be offered this summer is still being finalized, but we expect it to be very similar to last year's list," Barber said.

Food program participants

Last year, 10 elementary schools participated in the food program, including Bayshore, Blackburn, Daughtrey, Moody, Oneco, Orange Ridge Bullock, Palmetto, Rogers Garden, Samoset and Sea Breeze as well as five middle schools: Harllee, Johnson, Lee, Lincoln and Sugg.

Southeast and Palmetto high schools participated last year as well as East Coast Migrant Head Start on State Road 64.

All children, age 18 and younger, are eligible for the free meals, Barber added.

During last year's summer food program, breakfast service began at 7:45 a.m. and continued to 8:30 a.m. Lunch began at 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @RichardDymond.

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