MANATEE -- School buses were packed over the weekend with more than 131,000 pounds of pastas, canned goods and even frozen turkeys for the fifth annual "Stuff the Bus" campaign for the Food Bank of Manatee County.
Manatee School District buses were parked at Publix Super Markets throughout the county during the weekend food drive.
"It is a wonderful thing to give agencies we work with the ability to provide for people who are having a tough time during the holidays," Kristen Theisen, spokeswoman for the Food Bank of Manatee County.
Donations were collected Sunday evening and taken to Tropicana to be weighed, sorted and boxed.
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Theisen said Publix Super Markets are still collecting donations this week in food bank barrels. The Food Bank of Manatee County is aiming to gather 150,000 pounds of donated foods.
Mike Barber, spokesman for the Manatee County School District, said the event was a success. It gives students a chance to participate in the season of giving, he said.
At the first "Stuff the Bus," the food bank collected just 47,000 pounds. Since then, Theisen said the program has continued to grow.
"This year we decided to go all out with a challenge of 150,000 pounds," Theisen said. "It is quite a lofty goal for us, but I won't be surprised if we meet it after all is said and done."
Theisen said in addition to collecting non-perishable food items, the Food Bank of Manatee County can take frozen turkey donations this year in refrigerated trucks.
Each year, the "Stuff the Bus" campaign has taken place the weekend before Thanksgiving.
The campaign was an idea conceived five years ago by the Manatee County School District Transportation Department.
"The entire school district is proud to be a part of this effort that supports families in our community, especially as we head into the holiday season," Superintendent Rick Mills said. "I want to thank everyone who made this worthy endeavor possible."Sponsors of "Stuff the Bus" include the United Way of Manatee County, Tropicana, FM radio stations 106.5 CTQ and 92.1 The Coast and Ring Power.
Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.