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August 19, 2015

Summer Partnership to Feed Hungry Students Sees Success

“Alone, we can do so little, together we can do so much.” Helen Keller’s words once again ring true in our amazing Sarasota County. The second year of partnership between the Sarasota County Schools Food and Nutrition Services and the All Faiths Food Bank Campaign Against Summer Hunger has brought about a deeper understanding of how to reach the children and families in most need in our community.

“It takes two flints to make a fire.” Louisa May Alcott’s observation of many years ago is reflected in this partnership. What started as an ember, a simple idea to increase access to hungry children in the summer months, has resulted in an increase from 112,400 lunches served in 2014 to a projected 130,000 lunches for 2015, and 52,700 breakfast meals in 2014 to a projected 59,500 breakfasts in 2015. The program began on June 8 and will end August 14 as we transition to the new school year.

The marketing and public relations efforts provided by All Faiths Food Bank have greatly assisted Food and Nutrition Services in “getting the word out” to our community about the availability of nutritious, balanced meals at schools and agencies throughout the county…and beyond.

When the Sarasota County Library System approached All Faiths Food Bank about providing BackPack Kids food items for children to take home, the Food Bank was delighted to provide the program and has already distributed nearly 2,800 backpacks.

This summer, the Selby Library has also been a summer feeding site, with meals provided by the school district’s Food and Nutrition Services program, and funded through the federal Summer Food Service Program for Children. All Faiths Food Bank and Food and Nutrition Services had already observed that educational and enrichment programs tied to summer feeding sites increased the likelihood of success and sustainability. Partnering with the library system made perfect sense, as suggested by Debra Jacobs, president and CEO of The Patterson Foundation.

Food and Nutrition Services has also aided the library system by providing catering services at events including the Junior Achievement Series and Fourth of July Block Party at the North Sarasota Library, and family and children’s programs at the North Port Library.

The program was also provided at summer school sites from June 15-July 30. Efforts to provide summer meals in our community from the school district have a 20-year history in our community. However, the excitement of having partners who bring recognition and attention to the issue of child hunger, and having a relationship of like-minded groups and individuals helps to decrease duplication of effort is a much newer point of pride for our community.

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” So what does the future hold for the Campaign Against Summer Hunger? Henry Ford’s words suggest that if we keep working together, our efforts will be rewarded. All Faiths Food Bank and Food and Nutrition Services have already reached out to DeSoto County and expanded the three sites served in 2014 to four sites in 2015. Does a role exist for collaboration between the library system and DeSoto County?

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe). Thank you to The Patterson Foundation, All Faiths Food Bank, and the Sarasota Library System. You make me so proud to be a resident of Sarasota County.

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