School district hopes to keep 600 families fed over holiday


Shay Barnes, left, and Kelley Kostamo, a partnership specialist for Alachua County Public Schools, load a box with food on Tuesday in Gainesville.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at 4:41 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at 4:41 p.m.

Shay Barnes reminisced about her hometown's food basket program on Tuesday as she packed the canned vegetables into a box.

Facts

If you would like to help:

The district would like all food boxes to offer the same minimum food selection for all families:
Two large cans of sweet potatoes
Black beans
Stuffing mix
Instant potatoes
Five cans of fruit
Four cans of vegetables
Dessert — brownies/cake w/frosting
Breakfast: cereal, oatmeal or grits
Two large cans of Chef Boyardee-like items: Ravioli, Spaghetti-O's, etc.
Instant milk or boxed milk
Bag of rice
Three boxes of macaroni and cheese
Boxed meal w/meat in Hamburger Helper section
Spaghetti Noodles and a jar of sauce
Peanut butter and jelly
Three cans of soup
$10 gift card (or a non-refrigerated ham sometimes available in the meat department or canned meat aisle)

For cash donations, checks may be made to the Education Foundation of Alachua County
1725 SE 1st Ave., Gainesville, FL 32641
RE: Food Basket Project

A complete basket of food costs about $54. Online donations may be made through a PayPal link on the foundation website under “DONATE.” www.acpsf.org Choose the PayPal link under the food basket option.

For more information, contact Kelley Kostamo at 955-6900 or kostamkb@gm.sbac.edu

Her family benefitted from holiday charity when she was a child, she said, a thought she kept in mind as she volunteered to help with Alachua County Public Schools' annual food drive.

"It's my little way of giving back," said the 22-year-old University of Florida senior.

Local schools are collecting items through Dec. 14 to make food baskets for 600 families this holiday season.

The district in December 2011 was able to provide more than 540 families with baskets of food for the two-week holiday break.

Kelley Kostamo, the partnership specialist for Alachua County Public Schools, said most of the schools started collecting last week, but she's also working with other partners to collect food.

She already has received food donations from a few University of Florida fraternities and sororities and Westside Baptist Church, which held a Thanksgiving feast last week in which the price of admission was a donation to the food basket.

On Tuesday, she eyed several plastic grocery bags sitting in a warehouse, saying each school selects the families who receive the boxes.

The number of students receiving free or reduced price lunch at school has increased during the past several years. Currently, more than half of the 27,000 students in Alachua County qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

Kostamo said each school prepares 20 to 25 boxes. For nearly 10 years, she said, she has seen the food drive grow. But her message hasn't changed.

"Every little bit helps," she said.

Contact Joey Flechas at 338-3166 or joey.flechas@gvillesun.com.

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