MANATEE -- The Food Bank of Manatee is having trouble keeping food stocked on the shelves and is asking the community to donate any food or money they can to help meet the need.
"We have no pasta, no rice ... very little cereal," said Cindy Sloan, director of the Food Bank of Manatee. "The food pantries we serve are distributing the food as fast as we collect it - some have had to turn people away. It's heartbreaking."
Community leaders started the annual Grand Challenge at the Food Bank in Manatee in May this year, earlier than previous years, hoping the shelves would stay well-stocked throughout the busy summer months. But donations still aren't fully meeting the need.
"Our challenge right now is keeping the shelves stocked," said Maribeth Phillips, CEO of Meals on Wheels PLUS of Manatee, which operates The Food Bank. "We are relying on the community during this critical time, so we can be responsive to our partner agencies."
The challenge asked businesses, clubs and civic organizations to raise 1,000 pounds of food, $1,000 in cash or a combination of the two throughout June, and is now extended until the end of summer. The food bank has received more than 11,000 pounds of food and $12,000 in donations so far.
The first Grand Challenge was issued after a busy summer in 2012 when the Food Bank's shelves were empty. That effort resulted in local groups contributing more than 69,000 pounds of food and raised $55,000.
The 2013 Grand Challenge netted over 49,000 pounds of food and $107,000, including a $31,000 donation from Manatee Community Foundation. That total was all matched with an additional $100,000 from the Mosaic Company Foundation.
"We live in a giving, caring community," said Commissioner Carol Whitmore, in a news release issued by the county. "No one in Manatee County should have to go hungry, so I ask everyone to do what they can to help our neighbors. One can, one dollar - it all makes a difference."