MARCO ISLAND — On Nov. 7, hundreds of volunteers will converge on Marco Island Charter Middle School. Through the Meals of Hope program, they will package nutritious, low-cost meals to feed the staggering number of families who, right in this area, do not have enough food to let them eat every day.
On Monday evening, approximately 80 donors came by CJ’s on the Bay, raising money to help provide funds to purchase the bulk foodstuffs that make up the meals provided.
“Collier County has the largest transient population in the East,” said Neil Snyder, who is co-chairing the event with his wife and law partner Rebecca Hodge Snyder. “There’s a huge need for food, right near by. You name the school, there’s a need.” He pointed out Manatee Middle School as an example, where a teacher confirmed many students don’t get fed from when they leave school Friday until they return on Monday.
Attendees at CJ’s raised over $1,600, eclipsing the amount brought in at last year’s event. Violet Sullivan, 16, and her sister Rose, 13, circulated among the crowd, selling raffle tickets.
“My dad volunteered me,” said Violet, adding she was earning volunteer hours by helping out.
Similar fundraisers will be held at additional Marco Island eateries, August 12 at O’Donoghue’s, and September 16 at Porky’s. The $10 admission includes all-you-can-eat hors d’oeuvres, and helps many in the area who can’t grab a bite whenever they choose.
The Meals of Hope packaging event is a joint effort of the Kiwanis and two Rotary Clubs, Marco Island’s Sunrise and Noontime Rotary groups. With the volume purchasing power Meals of Hope provides, each meal costs only 20 cents for the ingredients, but to provide 150,000 meals, that means the organizations need to raise $30,000 to cover expenses.
For the actual food packaging event on November 16, workers will form into teams of 10, ladling rice, beans, soy protein, vitamins, minerals and dried vegetables into plastic bags, heat-sealing the bags, and boxing them up for distribution.
Meals of Hope, founded in 2007, gives away the packaged meals to Collier Harvest and the Harry Chapin Food Bank, who distribute them to local needy families. The group’s purchasing power, buying groceries by the pallet load, enabled them to leverage contributed dollars, making it much more efficient and beneficial than donating canned goods.
To donate to the Marco Island Meals of Hope event, call the Law Offices of Hodge & Snyder at (239) 430-0001. To volunteer or donate to Meals of Hope, a 501(c)3 organization, call 239-537-7775, or go online to www.kidsagainsthungerofswfl.org.