MANATEE COUNTY – Community leaders announced the 2014 Grand Challenge during a press conference Wednesday at the Food Bank of Manatee. They are again asking local businesses, organizations and neighborhoods to “white out” summer hunger as part of a June Grand Challenge.
The Grand Challenge asks local businesses, clubs and civic organizations to each raise 1,000 pounds of food, $1,000 in cash or a combination of the two throughout June. This year’s challenge will be held at the onset of the summer instead of the end in hopes that the Food Bank of Manatee’s shelves stay well-stocked throughout the busy summer months.
“The Grand Challenge has become a wildly successful community-wide effort in recent years,” said Kristen Theisen, chief development officer of Meals on Wheels PLUS of Manatee, which runs the food bank. “This year, instead of asking for Manatee County to step up when we’re low on supplies, we’re hoping a strong June Grand Challenge can help curb the traditional summertime shortage.”
Theisen said this year’s challenge will be tied in with the June 5 White Out Hunger Party. Community and food bank leaders hope the party and the Grand Challenge will go a long way to keep local food pantries well-stocked throughout the summer.
The first Grand Challenge was issued on the heels of a busy summer of 2012 when the food bank’s shelves were empty. That effort resulted in an outpouring of community support: local groups contributed more than 69,000 pounds of food and raised $55,000. In 2013, there were 2,041 homeless school children and siblings identified in Manatee County and at least 1,000 more who are not school-age or not reported.
The following September, a similar shortage had occurred. This time, the 2013 Grand Challenge netted more than 49,000 pounds of food and $107,000 (including a $31,000 donation from Manatee Community Foundation). That total was all matched with an additional $100,000 from the Mosaic Company Foundation.
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