Across the county, a collaborative effort is under way to restock overburdened food pantries with nonperishable goods for people and pets.
The Brooksville Senior FFA, the United Way of Hernando County and the Brooksville Tractor Supply Co. store are working together to collect food for distribution. Businesses, nonprofit organizations and individuals interested in helping are invited to participate by holding their own drives.
The FFA will host the culminating event, Miles of Meals, on Nov. 14. All the drives are tied in with a national effort to restock food banks called "Harvest for America."
"We're going to put donations end-to- end in an attempt to go around the track four times to make a mile," said Rick Ahrens, an agriculture science teacher and FFA adviser at Hernando High School.
From individual donations to truckloads of food, all are welcome, and FFA students will be there to help unload and organize.
The tough economy has hit many county families, and new faces show up regularly for food at local pantries. In some cases, those who once shared part of their weekly shopping with those in need now find themselves needing help.
As a result, food pantries are running low.
To help restock the pantries, all nonperishable goods, from rice and boxes of cereal to canned soup and vegetables, are needed. Food items should be in nonbreakable containers, such as boxes and cans.
The Brooksville FFA regularly participates in community service activities and has been rated one of the top chapters in the United States, Ahrens said.
Ahrens credits the community for being a place where service is both modeled and appreciated.
"Hernando County is second to none in helping their own out," he said.
The groups also wanted to be sure to include animals and pets, said Joyce Moore, store manager at Tractor Supply.
"A lot of people at this time cannot afford to feed their animals," she said.
"We're willing to take animal food and pet food, as long as it's nonperishable," Ahrens said. "Our little furry friends need to eat at this time as well."
The United Way of Hernando County is helping to find distribution outlets. Food pantries interested in being a part of the drive should call Kathy Jones at (352) 688-2026.
Shary Lyssy Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.