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"A Full Summer" Packs Thousands of Meals for Hungry Kids and Families

Margie Menzel

There were 300 volunteers for A Full Summer – so many they filled the Godby High School cafeteria on Saturday. Churches and law firms competed to pack the most meals.

This year the assembly project, which began in 2011, added a canned food drive for a total of 63,000 meals provided to Second Harvest of the Big Bend over the weekend. Organizer Laurye Messer says she'd been surprised to learn that Leon ranks third-highest for food insecurity of all Florida's 67 counties.

"But the problem, I think, is that many of us don't realize it. Not only do we have a large food-insecure population, we're separated," she said. "Those who live on one side of town may not even encounter someone who's food-insecure. So this event is not only about feeding hungry people, but it's about getting community together, letting people from different areas of the town meet each other, see each other, hear about each other's problems and work together to solve a problem."

Summer poses problems for the one in four local children who are food insecure, since they don't get school-based free and reduced meals. Messer, who runs A Full Summer with Becky Liner and Tracy Ippolito, says it began when they asked themselves, "Why can't we do something about this? "

"And I'll tell you, too, if you donate to Second Harvest of the Big Bend, for every dollar you donate, they can get four meals," Messer said. "That money stretches a lot further than you can have it at the grocery store. So do something. How little, how small…This started small, and it's grown and grown. Now we're doing a canned food drive in the month of May in conjunction with the meal assembly. You'd be surprised at where life takes you if you just do something."

A Full Summer is a partnership of the Leon County Schools, St. John's Episcopal Church and First Baptist Church of Tallahassee. Forty-five students from Godby and Boys Town of North Florida cleaned the cafeteria afterwards.