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Manatee County Residents Stuffed the Bus

More than 130,000 pounds of food was collected this past weekend for The Food Bank of Manatee.

A weekend event designed to help fill the shelves at the Food Bank of Manatee County brought in more than 130,000 pounds of food to feed families over the holidays.

Manatee District school buses were parked in front of all Publix locations and area shoppers were encouraged to donate food to fill each bus during the 4th annual “Stuff the Bus” event. Area shoppers were encouraged to donate food to fill each bus and the response was overwhelming.

The year's Stuff the Bus campaign — a partnership between the Manatee School District, Publix, Tropicana, FM radio stations 106.5 CTQ and 92.1 and The Coast and United Way of Manatee County — easily exceeded the 120,000 pounds collected in 2011.

“Fortunately, we live in a community that cares for one another," said Philip Brown, President of United Way of Manatee County. "This initiative is a perfect example of how reaching out a hand to one can influence the condition of all.”

There are more than 2,000 children in the Manatee County school system who are homeless and unsure of how they are going to get their next meal. Through its 100 partner agencies, including the school district’s Project Heart, The Food Bank helps to ensure that these families are not going hungry.

“It has been a very tough year for a lot of people,” said Cindy Sloan, Director of The Food Bank of Manatee, “The food collected will help ensure that our neighbors, friends, and co-workers won’t be going hungry in their time of need. It all stays here in our community.”

The school district not only loaned the buses but also provided volunteers for the effort.

"Part of the school district's mission statement is to inspire our students to contribute to our community, nation, and world.  Stuff the Bus is a great opportunity for our students to make a significant, direct contribution to the less fortunate of Manatee County," said Scott Martin, assistant superintendent of support services for the school district. "We are proud of the hard work of our students, staff, and community partners in making this a successful event."

The 130,000 pounds of food was sorted and packed on each bus, and unloaded at The Food Bank in less than three hours.

“We are so thankful for the many volunteers who stepped up to help with this event,” said Maribeth Phillips, CEO of Meals on Wheels PLUS of Manatee, which operates The Food Bank. “They came from all areas of the community – students, civic groups, businesses, and clubs - wanting to make a difference, and they certainly did.”

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