SARASOTA, FL – Nearly half of the 43,000 students enrolled at Sarasota County schools participate in free and reduced meal programs while, in DeSoto County, all of the nearly 5,000 enrolled students rely on these meals during the school year. But when school ends, hunger begins.
To try and fill the “hunger gap” for children who lose access to meals and food pantries at school, All Faiths Food Bank is, once again, launching its Campaign Against Summer Hunger. This annual effort involves behind-the-scenes fundraising to compile a six-figure match and then a community campaign that lasts from April 1 through May 15. This year, the match totals $800,000.
Eight years ago, All Faiths and Gulf Coast Community Foundation partnered to conduct a study of childhood hunger, which showed that – of the Sarasota County students receiving free or reduced meals – fewer than 5% were getting access to food when school was out. Community leaders Veronica Brady, who was working at Gulf Coast at the time, and Keith Monda, a philanthropist and leader at the national level with Feeding America, met with All Faiths CEO Sandra Frank to consider ways they could raise money while raising awareness of the hunger problem in our area. Many didn’t understand there are children going hungry in an area that is considered to be so affluent.
“It wasn’t apathy – it was ignorance,” Monda said. “People truly didn’t get the level of need in the community.”
That first year – with Brady and Monda serving as co-chairs – organizers hoped to reach 15,000 children but they exceeded that number, as the community raised $1.2 million. Now, the Campaign reaches more than 35,000 students and siblings in Sarasota and DeSoto counties and infrastructure has been created, through partnerships with other organizations and various summer programs, to provide access to food for as many children and families as possible.
Over the years, the Campaign has raised tremendous awareness of the issue of child hunger in our community as well as the gratifying total of more than $10.2 million from 2014-2020. There are many donors – the investors who provide the matching funds and community contributors of varying amounts – who return, year after year, to support the effort. With the pandemic deepening the hunger crisis, Campaign leaders hope that this year will provide further affirmation of this community’s commitment to caring.
“Nobody can look at the long line of cars at food distributions, with kids in those cars, and say they should do anything other than make sure those kids are fed,” Monda said. “They won’t be fed without us. Our responsibility is to make sure every child gets fed, every day.”
Monda and Brady have returned to spearhead the 2021 effort as co-chairs. The goal this year is to raise $1.6 million and reach 35,000 children.
“We designed this campaign so that everyone could make a difference,” said Brady. “If you’re someone who has the capacity to be an investor, we’ll gratefully accept your investment each year. For every community member, there’s an opportunity for you to be able to participate in helping to make our community better. We’re very grateful to all of our donors who make this effort possible each year.”
Lead investors for the 2021 Campaign Against Summer Hunger are Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, Gulf Coast Community Foundation, and The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee. To learn more about All Faiths or to help children who might otherwise go hungry, go to allfaithsfoodbank.org or call 941-379-6333.
About All Faiths Food Bank
All Faiths Food Bank is the only food bank and largest hunger relief organization in Sarasota and DeSoto counties. Rated 4-stars by Charity Navigator and a member of Feeding America, we provide millions of meals each year through robust programs and partnerships with charitable organizations in the community. In addition to food distribution, All Faiths Food Bank operates a roster of innovative direct service programs that not only solve the immediate problem of hunger but strive to end hunger by helping families and individuals gain long-term food security, better health outcomes and self-sufficiency. For more information visit allfaithsfoodbank.org.