A summer challenge to fill Food Bank of Manatee shelves

May 27, 2014 

Food headed for The Food Bank of Manatee sits in the back of a U.S. Postal vehicle during a past year's "Stamp Out Hunger." PROVIDED PHOTO

School's out soon, and students who qualified for free and low-cost meals -- the district serves both breakfast and lunch -- may miss that food over the summer.

The Manatee County school district does offer a summer meal program. Last year, 20 schools served breakfast and lunch. With some 50 schools in the district, families with transportation and time issues may find getting their children to a school outside their neighborhood a challenge.

Food pantries are a blessing in this quandary.

Senior citizens also wrestle with food shortages. Mary Nobles' story serves to illustrate that retirees on Social Security and pensions sometimes fail to find enough money to stave off hunger.

In launching the 2014 Grand Challenge food drive this summer instead of September, the Food Bank of Manatee hopes to ensure its warehouse becomes well stocked over the next few months -- when demand increases but food donations decrease markedly.

The Grand Challenge -- now in its third year -- implores businesses, clubs and civic organizations to collect 1,000 pounds of food, raise $1,000 in cash, or contribute any combination of the two sometime in June.

And, of course, residents can join the drive with any food or cash donation.

The 2012 Grand Challenge occurred after a bustling summer season that emptied the food bank's shelves, proving the need earlier than September.

The Food Bank of Manatee distributes goods to nonprofits throughout the county. Those food pantries, soup kitchens and churches then serve needy children and adults.

In announcing the Grand Challenge last week, Cindy Sloan, food bank director, stated, "We've seen a great need in our community. We know the need will increase during the summer."

Mary Nobles is one of more than 200 families that depend on the food pantry at Church of Hope in Palmetto, Herald writer Carl Mario Nudi reported with the challenge announcement.

Nobles pays her bills with her Social Security check and small pension from a lifetime of working, which provided enough upon her retirement eight years ago.

Now, though, the 73-year-old's mounting expenses gobbled up more and more of her income. She depends on the food pantry to make ends meet.

Other food pantries are seeing large increases in the number of families seeking assistance. The need is great as is the challenge.

Individuals can attend one of the events the Food Bank of Manatee is sponsoring to boost donations.

• On May 29 from 5-7 p.m., the Anna Maria Oyster Bar's Landside location, 6906 14th St. W., will host a charity happy hour with a batch of guest bartenders, including Amanda and John Horne. All the tips will to the food bank's "White Out Hunger" campaign this summer.

• On June 5 from 6-9 p.m., a "White Out Hunger Party" will feature cocktails, raffles, music and Renaissance on 9th cuisine at a home on Palma Sola Bay.

Tickets are $50, with half tax-deductible. Details: foodbankofmanatee.org; 941-749-0100.

Wear a white shirt to these events to show support for the campaign, thus turning "Wipe Out Hunger" into "White Out Hunger."

So, businesses, clubs and civic organizations -- and individuals -- the challenge is clear:

The community needs assistance to feed the hungry through the needy summer season. Please join the effort.

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