by Max Marbut
The 26th Annual Empty Bowls Luncheon presented by Bank of America filled the Osborn Center Tuesday with people making a contribution to fight hunger in North Florida.
Proceeds from the event benefit Second Harvest North Florida, a food bank that serves 18 counties. The luncheon is the organization’s largest fundraiser of the year. This year’s goal was to raise at least $85,000.
The need to provide food for struggling families has grown exponentially in the past few years and the people who are seeking help come from all walks of life, said Second Harvest Executive Director Thomas Mantz.
“The need continues to escalate. The greatest portion of support we now provide is going to working families who own their homes. That’s a marked change from a few years ago,” he said.
“Some people might think we only provide food to people who don’t want to change their circumstances, but we’re serving people from all walks of life. Chances are you know someone who’s on food support. You just don’t realize it,” he said.
Tom Strother is Second Harvest director of communications. “Some people come to us once in their lifetime. Some people come to us once a year,” he said. “The key is we’re there to help people.”
Two years ago, Second Harvest distributed 7.5 million pounds of food. Last year that number increased to 10 million pounds. Mantz said this year’s projection is to distribute 19 million pounds of food. “We estimate the need is more than 40 million pounds.”
For the past five years, Chick-fil-A owner-operators have donated the soup for the luncheon, with bread donated by Panera.
“The unit owners pitch in because we like to create emotional connections. This is our way of giving something back to the community,” said Laura Burris, Chick-fil-A unit marketing director.
The holiday season is when Second Harvest sees the greatest need for food support. The food bank has partnered with Food Lion and Black Diamond Performance Reporting to fill 1,000 Thanksgiving baskets for families in need.
A turkey provided by Food Lion will be in each basket and Black Diamond employees are contributing all the trimmings.
Second Harvest also is selling holiday cards for $15 that will provide a family in need with not just one meal, but food for the holidays. With every dollar received, Second Harvest can provide seven meals.
To learn more, go to www.WeNourishHope.org.