Summer is always a particularly tough time for Meals on Wheels & the Food Bank of Manatee as supplies run dangerously low as demand reaches a critical point with children out of school.
How to donate: To have a food barrel at your location, call 941-747-3663. Food collection barrels are located at: All Manatee County libraries The Bradenton Herald Bradenton Police Department Goodwill stores and more
The agency, located at 811 23rd Ave. E., has reached a crisis level with bare shelves dominating the storage area.
“To walk out there and see all those empty shelves is a very, very scary thing,” said Gary Tibbetts, special assistant to U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota. “This vital agency helps people so very much.”
Hunger is a very real issue in Manatee County and we are in a crisis.
Maribeth Phillips, CEO of Meals on Wheels and the Food Bank of Manatee
Maribeth Phillips, CEO of the food bank, issued a community challenge on Friday, asking every Manatee County agency, business, club and civic organization, as well as residents, to each collect 1,000 pounds of food or $1,000 to help restock the empty shelves.
“Hunger is a very real issue in Manatee County, and we are in a crisis,” said Phillips. “The shelves are empty and I know we can come together as a community to fill them.”
Most essential needs: Cereal Peanut Butter Canned vegetables Canned fruit Canned soup Baby formula Diapers and other baby essentials
Manatee County Commission Chairwoman Vanessa Baugh said as a former board member of the agency, “I always love coming here, but I don’t love having to be here today for the reason we are here.”
Baugh said the sight of empty shelves means the risk of a child going hungry in Manatee County is getting all too real, “And that’s very sad. But I’m so very proud of the residents in this county and I know the residents will do what needs to be done.”
No one can do it by themselves, but together we can solve this problem. Hunger is curable.
Manatee County School District Superintendent Diana Greene
At first look, it may appear impossible for anyone to go hungry given the number of organizations and churches that conduct food banks, but the majority of that food is distributed through the Food Bank of Manatee.
In January, the food bank received 61,205 pounds of food that was distributed to more than 100 local food banks, but last month donations dropped to 16,616 pounds. Phillips said the primary needs are for cereal, peanut butter, canned fruit, canned soup and canned vegetables.
Manatee County School District Superintendent Diana Greene said the district has served more than 120,000 meals over the summer at community locations and via the district’s two food buses.
“But we have partnered with Meals on Wheels that follow us to give additional food to families in need. No one can do it by themselves, but together we can solve this problem. Hunger is curable.”
Manatee County Community Foundation Executive Director Susie Bowie said a lot of good people try to find ways to help the community and the food bank is a great place to start. The foundation is offering up to $20,000 in matching donations during the challenge.
An anonymous donor, as well as Mosaic, are offering an additional $15,000 in matching funds.