Anna Maria Island to host Feeding Children Everywhere

Earlier this month at the Food Bank of Manatee, director Cindy Sloan pointed to a huge container with a logo of a globe bearing the words: Feeding Children Everywhere.

It contained 15,000 lentil-based casserole meals and was the last of a shipment from the Orlando-based nonprofit.

"They went like that," said Sloan, snapping her fingers.

There will be more where that came from for the Food Bank and other crisis food pantries in Manatee County, according to Don Campbell, president and chief executive officer of Feeding Children Everywhere, which mobilizes people to assemble healthy meals for hungry children.

Another 50,000 meals will arrive this month.

But there will be another 100,000 in November that will be hand-packaged in a special event Nov. 3 at Holmes Beach City Field, 5801 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach.

"We're hoping for an overwhelming response," said Anna Maria's Mary Selby.

Co-hosted by Anna Maria Island volunteers and Feeding Children Everywhere, it will feature live music, fun and, Campbell said, the chance to truly help hungry school children.

"The purpose is twofold," he said. "We want to put more food into Manatee County, and this is a way to be involved with the solution. People can come to our event and actually package healthy meals we distribute

to the county."

Each package is a six-meal pack with six adult-sized portions.

Founded in 2010 by Campbell and wife, Kristen, he said Feeding Children Everywhere has managed to deliver 15 million meals to school-age children worldwide in the last 26 months.

Six million meals have gone to school children in the U.S. since last February, he said.

"We've found that a large percentage of students at Title 1 schools (where a majority of students are on free or reduced-price lunch) are not getting food at home," Campbell said. "We want to help provide them healthy meals for themselves and the family."

There are 23 Title 1 schools in Manatee County with 12,000 students on free or reduced lunch, according to district officials.

Mary Selby hopes to use the event as a stepping stone toward helping feed other needy people.

"People don't believe it, but we have hungry people in our community -- including Anna Maria Island," she said. "What this event is doing is amazing. This food is delicious and economical."

Feeding Children Everywhere buys its lentils from U.S. farmers and rice from U.S. mills, according to Campbell, who has held events like Nov. 3 nationwide.

"We bring the product in bulk and create assembly lines for the community to package meals," he said. "It's a fun environment. All we're looking for is manpower and people who want to contribute."

The cost of each meal is about 25 cents, so donations will be accepted.

Cindy Sloan is looking forward to the results of the event.

Thanks to the recent Grand Challenge to help restock the Food Bank, there are now 52,000 pounds of food on its shelves.

"The response is continuing," she said.

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix