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Manatee leaders team up for countywide initiative to aid Food Bank

BRADENTON -- Two community leaders are issuing a countywide challenge to help restock the nearly empty shelves of the Food Bank of Manatee.

Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore and Manatee School Board member Julie Aranibar will hold a 9 a.m. Wednesday press conference at the Food Bank warehouse, 811 23rd Ave. E., to announce the Grand Challenge, an initiative aimed at refilling the Food Bank shelves.

Cindy Sloan, the Food Bank director, said the warehouse continues to have a severe shortage with 15 percent capacity. That affects its service to more than 100 local agencies and food pantries that distribute food to almost 60,000 people monthly.

"It's heartbreaking to think Manatee children and fam

ilies may be going to sleep hungry each night," Whitmore said. "I know this community will step up to help in a great hour of need. I'm hoping those of us who can afford to give back will do all they can to help."

Ironically, September is Hunger Action Month, too.

"It is critical we step up and make a difference now," Aranibar said. "Where there's a will there's a way and I know we're going to make a big impact for the people who are in great need right now."

The Challenge asks Manatee schools, business owners, hospitals, faith-based organizations and other groups to help by collecting either 1,000 pounds of food or raising $1,000 or a combination of the two during September.

Aranibar and Whitmore said the Grand Challenge is not intended to replace other popular food drives such as Stuff the Bus in November. But they said the Food Bank can't wait for November because of the great need for food in the community now.

Sloan said for every $1 donated, the Food Bank can collect and distribute approximately six pounds of food. For those who donate food, the Food Bank needs non-perishable goods and proteins, such as canned tuna, chicken and jars of peanut butter.

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