BRADENTON -- The Food Bank of Manatee needs an assist and community participation in the annual Feinstein Challenge could provide it.
For the 15th consecutive year, Rhode Island philanthropist Alan Shawn Feinstein will divide $1 million among hunger-fighting agencies nationally and the Food Bank of Manatee, 811 22rd Ave. E., is among them.
"This is the time of year donations drop off," said Food Bank director Cindy Sloan. "People are going back north so our numbers -- cash and food donations -- are down."
Walk-in donations and barrel dropoffs by the public accounted for 110,000 pounds of food the last quarter of 2011.
It was just 39,500 the first quarter of 2012.
Hence, officials are hoping the Feinstein Challenge can provide a shot in the arm for the Food Bank, which provides nutritional assistance to needy children and families by distributing food to non-profit agencies including food pantries, soup kitchens and churches.
"The more we bring in the more of the pot we get," Sloan said.
To participate in the Feinstein Challenge, residents and local businesses are asked to specify their non-perishable food donation as a Challenge contribution by April 30.
Another option is to donate by check, noting Feinstein Challenge in the memo.
All donations and pledges received, including cash, checks and food items -- that can be valued at $1 per item or pound -- will be counted and added to the matching challenge total.
Feinstein's past annual $1 million challenges to fight hunger have raised $1 billion for more than 2,000 agencies nationwide.
Whatever money the Food Bank receives from the Feinstein Challenge goes a long way, said chief development officer Kristen Theisen.
"It also helps with transportation costs and equipment repairs," she said. "Those are things people don't think about, so this challenge helps us in so many ways. It's free money for us based on what people give, whether it's a donation in cash or food."
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix