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June 18, 2015

Connecting at the Intersection of Learning and Hunger

There is a longstanding history of innovation and kinship between the Sarasota County Schools and All Faiths Food Bank – a connection that spans almost 20 years. Last year, our organizations joined forces for an unprecedented summer food program for children funded by the Campaign Against Summer Hunger. Together, they provided food and meals for 15,500 kids who were at risk of hunger during the summer months.

Planning for the 2015 summer food program was underway when Debra Jacobs, president and CEO of The Patterson Foundation, reached out to Sandra Frank, CEO of All Faiths Food Bank, and Sarabeth Kalajian, Director of Sarasota County Library System, with a novel idea: What about involving the libraries in the summer food programs?

Low-income children experience a slide in learning, literacy and nutrition over the summer. A partnership among the Sarasota County Schools, Sarasota County Libraries and All Faiths Food Bank would serve as a way to address both the achievement and nutrition gap experienced by children. The food programs could help ensure that children and teens in low-income neighborhoods were healthy and engaged during the summer, enabling them to return to school in the fall ready to learn.

Sandra and Sarabeth jumped at the opportunity to partner. They contacted Dr. Beverly Girard, Director of Food and Nutrition Services for Sarasota County Schools. Within a few short weeks, plans were in place to use the summer food program to engage underserved children in summer learning activities.

The new partnership with the libraries expands the Food Bank’s summer BackPack Kids program, so children 18 and under can visit their library any time and take home a bag of kid-friendly food.

Participating libraries include: Fruitville, Gulf Gate, North Sarasota, and Selby in Sarasota; Elsie Quirk in Englewood; North Port Public Library in North Port; and Jacaranda and Venice Public Library in Venice.

In addition to the libraries, the summer food program is providing food and meals for children in 89 locations in Sarasota County. The backpacks, pantries and snacks are funded by All Faiths Food Bank through the Campaign Against Summer Hunger. The BreakSpot meals are funded by the school district. For more information about the summer food sites – including maps and schedules – or to support this program, please visit

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