VENICE — The city of Venice is taking part — and encouraging others to assist — with the Mayors’ Feed the Hungry Program.

High unemployment has led to the program seeing a greater demand for food pantries assisting residents, according to Executive Director Scott Biehler.

Because of that, it’s seeking donations.

The Mayors’ Feed the Hungry Program, began by former Sarasota Mayor Fredd Atkins, is something that Venice participates in. It has has food pantries in both Manatee and Sarasota counties — from Palmetto to North Port, Biehler said.

Donations can include food, money and gift cards.

For now, the program is hoping to keep its 25 food pantries stocked with necessary food supplies, it said in a news release.

“The Mayors’ Feed the Hungry is calling to action all food donors to give either in food supplies, grocery store gift cards, or financial support,” it said. “The organization simply cannot keep pace with the food demand and food supply shortage to help those in need throughout the counties.”

Biehler reminded residents its “not just a Thanksgiving holiday organization that provides holiday meals.”

“We operate year round,” he said. “We are a coalition of nonprofit agencies coming together to serve people that need it most and are appealing for donations since there has been such a demand on our pantries due to COVID-19.”

It was originally founded in 1987 by Adkins to feed the needy during the holiday season, it said. But that’s no longer its mission.

Mayors’ Feed the Hungry has collected more than 600 tons of food and $3,600,000 in gift cards, it noted in the news release. It is a not-for-profit 501©(3) volunteer organization with no government funding supports the program.

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