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Manatee Leaders Issue Another


MANATEE COUNTY – With local food pantries again reaching a severe shortage, a group of Manatee’s top leaders is asking the community to help raise food and money for the Food Bank of Manatee. 

Manatee County Commissioners Carol Whitmore and Vanessa Baugh and State Representative Jim Boyd issued another Grand Challenge during a press conference at the Food Bank of Manatee at 9 a.m. on Wed., Aug. 21, asking local groups, businesses and organizations to raise 1,000 pounds of food or $1,000 or a combination of the two for the Food Bank. 

Nearly 150 local groups collected more than 21 tons of food and more than $50,000 in last year’s Grand Challenge to help the Food Bank feed local families. 

This year’s challenge asks local groups to do the same, with an emphasis on food and supplies for infants. 

“We’re especially low on dry baby food, formula diapers and wipes,” said Maribeth Phillips, CEO of Meals on Wheels PLUS which operates the Food Bank. “These are items the average person doesn’t have in the pantry to donate and they can be very expensive.” 

Food Bank officials were overwhelmed by the community response to the Grand Challenge last year and said the proceeds greatly helped feed Manatee County families. Food Bank Director Cindy Sloan said the Grand Challenge went a long way to raise awareness for Manatee’s significant hunger issues. Businesses that never before participated in local food drives have now become involved. 

“The community’s response incredible last year,” Sloan says. “I hope people realize exactly how much this helps feed hungry kids and families throughout our county. We truly appreciate all the help.” 

Anyone interested can obtain a Food Bank food collection barrel by calling (941) 747-FOOD. Food Drive Kits can also be found at the Food Bank’s website. Throughout September a participating group can simply call the Food Bank to retrieve food from full collection barrels. 

Food Bank officials use the cash donations to buy food, sometimes as low as 9 cents per pound, so more than 100,000 pounds of food was distributed as a result of last year’s Grand Challenge. The Grand Challenge last August when word began to spread about the Food Bank’s shortage at the end of the summer.

Grand Challenge organizers announced Wednesday that Mosaic Company Foundation and Manatee Community Foundation are offering significant financial support. The Mosaic Company Foundation will match community contributions to The Food Bank of Manatee, dollar for dollar and dollar per pound of donated food, up to $100,000 throughout September.

The Manatee Community Foundation will contribute $30,000, which will be doubled as a result of the Mosaic Company Foundation match. For every dollar or pound of food the community contributes during September, the Mosaic Company Foundation will match it up to $70,000. 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 September.

Local officials today crowded a small office at the Food Bank during a 9 a.m. press conference to ask groups throughout the community to help. Leading the way were Manatee County Commissioners Carol Whitmore and Vanessa Baugh; Manatee County Schools Superintendent Rick Mills and School Board member Julie Aranibar; Meals on Wheels PLUS CEO Maribeth Phillips and Food Bank Director Cindy Sloan; Manatee Community Foundation Executive Director Marilyn Howard; and Mosaic Company Public Affairs Manager Jackie Barron. 

Last year nearly 150 local groups collected close to 70,000 pounds of food and more than $55,000 in the Grand Challenge to help the Food Bank feed local families. Community leaders today asked even more local groups to do the same, with an emphasis on food and supplies for infants.

“Our shelves are very bare right now,” Phillips said. “High need this summer has taken its toll again. We are so grateful to all those involved today for taking the lead and issuing the Grand Challenge for a second year.”


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