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Manatee, LWR high schools in food drive fight

MANATEE — Manatee High School principal Bob Gagnon had to jump over a 3-foot plant to get to his desk Friday morning.

That’s because about 7,000 nonperishable food items scattered throughout his office stood in his way.

Across town at Lakewood Ranch High School, it was the same scenario inside principal Linda Nesselhauf’s office.

From green beans to cream of mushroom soup and tuna to sweet potatoes, her cluttered office was packed.

Students and staff at the two high schools are locked in a fierce effort to drive their respective principals out of their offices by collecting and stacking nonperishable food items.

The competition ends Dec. 4, Nesselhauf said.

Administrators from the losing school will serve lunch to students and staff at the winning school.

Smack talk was in full effect Friday.

“I think they’re in a little bit of trouble,” Gagnon said as he scanned his office cluttered with dozens of cardboard boxes and plastic bags full of food.

Gagnon has heard rumors his school has a substantial lead over Lakewood Ranch.

“I‘ve been told they have about 1,900 items,” he said.

Nesselhauf didn’t give an exact number, but at the end of the school day Friday did say they had more than 1,900 items.

“So far they’ve removed me from about a quarter of my very large office,” she said. “They need to move me a little more!”

Manatee’s donations benefit Our Daily Bread and St. Joseph Catholic Church’s food pantry, both in Bradenton.

Lakewood Ranch’s donations will go to the Mayors’ Feed the Hungry program and the Salvation Army.

On Friday, Our Daily Bread came and started to pick up some of the items from Manatee High.

“The agencies we’re working with have an immediate need for Thanksgiving,” Gagnon said. “That, and I had no more room in my office.”

Manatee students, including Cord Sandberg, Zach Stephenson and Michael McDonough, helped load the items into the agency’s large white van.

They packed it so full that the weight was evident from the van’s sinking tires.

Penny Goethe, kitchen manager at Our Daily Bread on 17th Avenue West, said they picked up about 500 to 700 pounds of food.

“It’s amazing. It really is, because we’re feeding 250-300 people a day now,” she said. “It’s that time of year and everybody’s in need.”

Our Daily Bread is serving its Thanksgiving Meal today.

“We will be closed on Thanksgiving Day because other organizations, including the Salvation Army and some local churches, are serving that day,” she said.