Community makes big strides to help Food Bank of Manatee

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BRADENTON - According to the Food Bank of Manatee, there are over 100 pantries in town that are feeding 50,000-60,000 families each month.  And even though they're receiving donations from the Grand Challenge this month, it's still not enough to keep up with the need.  That's why some community groups are taking donating to the next level.

There was a big surprise to the Food Bank of Manatee County Friday morning.  "It's our honor and pleasure to tell you we'd like to present you with $10,000 to the food bank," said Toniann Petrillo.

"Oh my god," Food Bank of Manatee County director Cindy Sloan replied, in complete shock when she saw the check.  Yes, she heard the women right:  $10,000 made out to the Food Bank of Manatee County.


"I feel like other people in the community see what I know: that we have hungry people, our friends and our neighbors," Sloan said.

The money is a donation from local non-profit Entre Nous, made up of 36 active women that took proceeds from their 3rd cookbook and kicked it right back to local charities such as the food bank.

"I know that we have over 100 different pantries in town," Sloan said.  "They are probably feeding upwards of 50,000 to 60, different families a month, so $10,000 is going to go a long way.

The donation comes during the food bank's Grand Challenge this month, challenging Manatee County businesses to either send in a $1000 donation or collect 1000 pounds of food.  But the women of Entre Nous wanted to do more and give to a place that helps so many others.

"We felt that if we made an impact and started at the top, we can make a deeper impact down on the bottom by helping all of Manatee County rather than giving a small amount to a lot of different organizations," Petrillo said.

And the challenge this month was not just inspiring these women, but also youth in the community.  A Braden River High School student started a canned food drive to get her fellow classmates involved.

"I definitely wanted to help people like locally," said senior Melissa McFall.  "And I know that there are lots of kids in this school, even the people we don't necessarily think about that are on like free and reduced lunches and stuff.  And it definitely impacts them."

So far, the school collected more than 600 items and $230 in donations as of Friday afternoon, with a few more hours to go on their food drive.

"High school students, I think they're the future.  And it's better for them to get involved now.  Its like an easy way for them to help out," said McFall.

Entre Nous is also donating money to St. Joseph's Food Pantry, the Special Olympics of Manatee County, and Elks Feeding Empty Little Tummies, a total of $12,000 in donations. 

Several other community groups are also collecting for and donating to the food bank:

-Lakewood Ranch-Sarasota Elks Lodge is donating $500

-Elks Feeding Empty Little Tummies is donating $1000

-If you donate a certain amount to the Food Bank of Manatee, you will receive one of Entre Nous' cookbooks

-You can donate online to help All Faiths Food Bank, the Food Bank of Manatee, and The Center of Hope in Venice Donations will be matched dollar-for-dollar by donors through Gulf Coast Gives