By Patrick McCallister
For Hometown News
More than 6,600 pounds of food a day over 10 days. That's what public employees collected during the second annual Feed The Need Food Drive in November.
"It was almost double what they collected last year," said Robert "Bob" Thomas, the Volusia County branch manager of Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.
The food, and cash-donations, went to Second Harvest, which will distribute it to 105 feeding programs throughout the county.
Volusia County Manager Jim Dinneen created the now annual food drive last year. He said public employees got a front-row seat to the human costs of the protracted economic downturn and wanted to do more to help their communities.
"They see the problems out there every day," Mr. Dinneen said. "It is personal to me. It just came to me one day, 'Why don't we try this?'"
Dinneen approached city managers with the idea, and it was a hit.
Public employees raised 66,841 pounds of food this year, which topped last year's nearly 38,000 pounds of food. The previous food-drive record at Volusia's Second Harvest was 31,000 pounds.
In addition to Volusia County, Daytona Beach Shores, DeBary, DeLand, Edgewater, Holly Hill, New Smyrna Beach, Orange City, Ormond Beach, Pierson, Ponce Inlet, Port Orange and South Daytona participated in the food drive, along with Volusia County Schools and Daytona State College.
New this year was the Volusia County Public Library's Food for Fines program. Last month patrons with fines that were less than $5 could get them waived by bringing in two non-perishable food items. Those with fines from $5 to $25 could get them erased with 10 items. Library patrons donated 6,061 pounds of food through Food for Fines.
Mr. Thomas said the food and cash donations from Feed The Need are enough to feed about 955 families for a week. He said more is always needed.
"The need is still out there," Mr. Thomas said. "It is as great as ever. We're seeing a lot of multiple families under one roof now."
For the second year, Holly Hill raised the most food per employee. Last year, Holly Hill raised just over 4,000 pounds of food. This year the city workers raised about 14,350 pounds, an average of about 135 pounds per employee. Volusia County employees raised the largest amount of food, slightly more than 18,000 pounds.
Mr. Dinneen said next year he hopes to expand the Feed The Need drive by getting more public participation.
"My new goal is to try to get the newspapers on board and try to get the public to match the public employees," he said. "We really do want to make it annual and make (Feed The Need) something the food banks can count on."
Mr. Thomas said other annual food drives have seen increases this year.
"Some of our bigger ones -- Scouting for Food for instance, that was up," he said. "The trend has been a downward spiral the last few years."