SARASOTA (WWSB) - The Food Bank of Manatee County is in critical need of unopened, non-perishable food. Staff said their pantry has dried of easy-to-prepare meals during one of the most crucial times of the year - summer break.
One in five children in Manatee County is hungry, according to FeedingAmerica.org. Another startling statistic: 72% of students K-12 are eligible for free or reduced lunches at their school in Manatee County. So what do they eat when school is out?
“Wow, what an amazing number,” said Betty and Gerald Scanlon. They were shocked to hear how many students their donations would help.
The couple gathers boxes of food and personal items from their neighbors every month and brings it to the Food Bank of Manatee.
“We are very blessed and there are others who need," said Betty. "It’s giving. That’s what life is about.”
Staff said the Food Bank provides food to more than 100 agencies and pantries in the County.
“Every school in Manatee County has a huge, huge hunger problem,” said Stephanie Grepling, director of marketing for the Food Bank of Manatee.
One of the food bank’s many initiatives is called Sack Summer Hunger.
“Last year, we distributed over 110,000 meals to students over a 12-week period," said Grepling. "The need is growing and it’s alarming.”
The food bank said there’s a critical need for canned fruits and vegetables.
They have an abundance of things like spaghetti and rice because tariffs have stopped US trade with other countries.
This means farmers have more food to give to the food pantries, but it doesn’t include protein like peanut butter and canned meats or produce like veggies and fruit.
Staff said in addition to those items, they also need soups and healthy snacks like cereal and granola bars.
“So as the snowbirds are leaving, we would love you guys to donate the food in your cabinets as opposed to throwing it away," said Grepling. "Re-purpose it, keep it here in Manatee County. There are plenty of families that can really benefit from the food that they’re not going to use.”
Families with little ones who really appreciate the kindness.
“When we go out and deliver those sack summer hunger bags to the kids, and they want to hug our legs," explained Cindy Sloan, vice president and director of the Food Bank of Manatee. "They’ll be screaming, ‘oh the Food Bank’s here! We’ve got food for the weekend!' Oh my gosh, it just touches your heart.”
In addition to the food items, the Food Bank also needs things like baby food, diapers & formula. For the full list and more information on how to donate, see below.
The Food Bank of Manatee is in critical need of the following non-perishable foods:
• Canned tuna, chicken, or salmon • Baby Food, Diapers & Formula
• Peanut butter • Canned foods with pop-top lids
• Meals in a can (soup, stew, chili) • Low-sugar whole grain cereals
• Canned vegetables • Healthy snacks (granola bars, nuts
• Canned fruit in its own juice or water and dried fruit)
You can help The Food Bank of Manatee provide hunger-relief to those in need by hosting a food drive and collecting non-perishable foods. To have a yellow donation barrel dropped off at your neighborhood, clubhouse, gym or civic organization, call 941-747-FOOD or email firstname.lastname@example.org.