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East County Thursday, Mar. 24, 2022 8 months ago

Walk to End Summer Hunger returns to Sarasota after two-year hiatus

A major All Faiths Food Bank fundraiser returns to Nathan Benderson Park.
by: Ian Swaby Staff Writer

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, All Faiths Food Bank has been stressed by additional demand and the loss of events and programs.

So it will be a celebration 8 a.m. March 27 when the All Faiths Food Bank resumes its Walk to End Summer Hunger event, which was cancelled in 2020-2021. The event, which expects to draw approximately 600 people, will be run at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota.

“It has been a scary time for All Faiths Food Bank and the families we serve,” said Sandra Frank, the All Faiths Food Bank CEO. “People were panicked about feeding their families and keeping a roof over their heads. We had to step up our game to meet the profoundly increased need in our community as a result of the initial impact of pandemic.”

Frank said the community has persevered and has worked to come together again. However, she said the need is greater than ever.

"Inflation, the war in Ukraine, astronomical gas prices, the severing of the supply chain," she said in rapid-fire order.

She said the supply chain issues are especially meaningful to the All Faiths Food Bank, which distributes 20 million pounds of food to the region.

All Faiths Food Bank reported it raised more than $2 million in 2021 to buy food for those in need in the region. Its numbers say it served 34,069 students during the year (which doesn't include those children who had not yet reached school age). 

“They’re sort of invisible children, because they're not in the school system," Frank said of children who have yet to enter school.

Those food donations were calculated to provide 3,175,762 meals that were delivered through 341 programs and more than 200 partner organizations.

The Walk to End Summer Hunger raises funds and awareness of the programs.

While volunteers are coming back to the nonprofit as the pandemic has eased, Frank said restrictions continue to be in place that reduces the number of volunteers they can use. She said the effort from those who are allowed has been "phenomenal."

“There’s something about the sense of community, the sense of unity around the issue (of childhood hunger)," she said. "Most of us feel compelled and emotionally drawn to the to the problem. I don't think anyone can not tear up a little bit about the very idea that a child could be hungry. So (the Walk to End Summer Hunger) is just a way to get out and say I'm supporting this cause — I'm doing my part."

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