Special Reports

Million-dollar challenge fights hunger

MANATEE — Call it the million-dollar carrot.

Philanthropist Alan Shaw Feinstein of Rhode Island will divide $1 million among food banks and other hunger-fighting organizations nationwide to help them raise funds during March and April.

The concept behind the Feinstein Challenge is a simple one. The more donations — cash or food — an agency raises during the two months, the bigger share that group receives from the $1 million Feinstein pot.

Last year, the Feinstein challenge helped five local agencies raise more than $3.6 million in cash and food donations to help feed the hungry in Manatee, Sarasota and DeSoto counties, as well as school children in Haiti. In return those five agencies received $12,782 from the Feinstein’s challenge.

The Food Bank of Manatee collected $454,457 in food or monetary donations, earning them a grant from Feinstein for more than $1,697.

“This year we hope to raise more,” said Kristen Theisen, development director for Meals on Wheels, which runs the Manatee Food Bank. “Since Christmas our donations have been flat, but the need keeps going up. We are now giving out an average of 175 emergency food baskets a week in addition to the food we supply to the needy through area agencies and infant food baskets.”

Our Daily Bread last year raised $57,792 in food and donations, which brought in $434 from the challenge, said Bob Eikill, director of the soup kitchen. Eikill hopes to see that total rise significantly this year.

“The need is greater than ever before,” Elkill said. “We are now serving an average of 250 meals a day.”

All donors need do is to direct their donations to go toward the Feinstein Challenge. If they write checks, “Feinstein Challenge” should go in the memo line. Food items are valued at $1 a pound. All of the money collected stays with the participating agency.

Over the past decade Feinstein’s annual million-dollar challenge has raised more than $300 million nationwide to help fight hunger. The $1 million in the challenge pot comes directly from Feinstein, a journalist, educator and financial columnist who lives in Rhode Island.

Since 1996, Feinstein has dedicated himself full-time to philanthropic projects, including the World Hunger Program at Brown University, the World Hunger Brigade and the Feinstein International Famine Center at Tufts University.

In Sarasota, the Feinstein Challenge helped All Faith Food Banks, serving Sarasota and DeSoto counties, raise more than $86,000 last year. Jewish Family and Children’s Services took in more than $204,000 and a Sarasota-based nonprofit called All The Children Are Children, which supports a school in Haiti, raised more than $2.8 million.

The Food Bank of Manatee and All Faith Food Bank are counting on Publix’s spring food drive to help them with this year’s challenge.

Publix pre-packs food donation bags in varying sizes, priced from $8 to $17, said Shannon Patten, company spokeswoman. “The best prize is the local community gets all of the food. It’s neighbors helping neighbors.”

Our Daily Bread accepts donations any day of the week before noon at 1423 14th St. W. Checks can be mailed to Our Daily Bread, P.O. Box 9544, Bradenton, 34206.

For information on how to donate or volunteer to the Food Bank of Manatee, visit www.foodbankofmanatee.org or call (941) 747-3663.