LAKEWOOD RANCH -- As summer turns into fall, food pantries such as the Food Bank of Manatee often find themselves with bare shelves as the hunger in the county persists.
To help replenish the stock, the Food Bank of Manatee hosted its 14th annual Empty Bowls event along Main Street in Lakewood Ranch on Thursday. The event, which will also be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at Re
naissance on 9th in downtown Bradenton, helps the food pantry return to full shelves, said Lauren Blenker, communications manager for Meals on Wheels PLUS of Manatee.
Blenker said they are expecting 1,000 people to attend during the two days.
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"It really is a heartwarming event and kicks off the holiday season and the spirit of giving," she said.
On Thursday, 22 local restaurants lined both sides of Main Street, dishing out homemade soups for attendees to sample. The event costs $25, which includes three soup samples, a bowl of soup and a ceramic bowl made by either local artists or students from the Tampa Bay area.
All proceeds from the event go back to the Food Bank of Manatee, allowing them to stock the shelves with food.
In 2013, the Food Bank of Manatee supplied 4.2 million pounds of food, which is distributed through 100 local agencies and food partners, Blenker said.
For Sury Bernal, catering operations director at Fete Catering and Polo Grill, Meals on Wheels is one of her favorite charities so she was happy to dish out sweet corn soup topped with pork belly croutons to the attendees on Thursday.
"It's a good cause because there are so many people going hungry out there," she said.
Bradenton resident Carolyn Hoff said she heard about the event from a friend and wanted to come out for the "good cause and to meet some friends for lunch."
On Thursday, Hoff sampled the Key West seafood chowder made by 2nd Street Bistro at Manatee Memorial Hospital.
"It was awesome," she said after trying the soup. "So good so far."
Claire Aronson, University Parkway/Sarasota reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024 or at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.