Island food pantry receives $30K from county ‘CARES’ fund

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Mayors Feed the Hungry representatives stand with Roser Food Pantry chair Jack Brennan, second from left, who holds a $30,000 check Dec. 31, 2020, funded by the CARES Act. From left, AID president Cornelia Zanetti, Brennan, Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy, Mt. Carmel Resource Center director Shirley Pearson, former Manatee County Commissioner Betsy Benac, Mayors Feed the Hungry chair Joel Swallow and Fran Maxon Real Estate co-owner Rich Bell. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice

Some support for needy islanders arrived with the new year.

Local officials and representatives from the Mayors Feed the Hungry program delivered a $30,000 check Dec. 31 to the Roser Food Pantry in Anna Maria after some confusion developed regarding the island’s food assistance and relief funds.

Those in attendance for the presentation included Roser Food Pantry chair Jack Brennan, who accepted the donation, Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy, former Manatee County Commissioner Betsy Benac and Mayors Feed the Hungry chair Joel Swallow.

“We plan to continue the Sponsored Food Recipient Program more aggressively,” Brennan said in a Dec. 31 interview with The Islander. “Anyone that we can conceive of that has been affected negatively by COVID-19, we’re going to provide food assistance.”

He said the $30,000 donation should help the pantry support needy islanders through July.

“It feels really good,” Brennan said. “Anyone that thinks of this island thinks in terms of affluence, but in reality, there are a lot of people in need.”

Mayors Feed the Hungry program also donated $3,000 to All Island Denominations, the organization of island churches that supports the pantry and also provides assistance to needy islanders.

The donations were funded through the U.S. Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, which sent $70 million in federal relief to the county.

County commissioners agreed in November 2020 to designate $150,000 in CARES Act funds for the Mayors Feed the Hungry program, with the county’s municipalities fronting $25,000 each — to be reimbursed by the county.

Island officials expressed concerns about the distribution of funding, saying the Mayors Feed the Hungry partners lacked island-based organizations.

Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy asked program director Scott Biehler to send a portion of the $75,000 funding earmarked for the island cities to the Roser pantry and AID, since both help islanders.

County commissioners then reversed course, granting $450,000 in CARES Act funding directly to the Mayors Feed the Hungry program — a decision that seemingly left the island without relief funds.

However, Swallow said Dec. 31 that Benac helped secure funding for the island during her final days as a commissioner.

“It’s not easy to get that money out in a short amount of time,” Benac said. “It really takes a lot of legwork. …But we got it done. So we’re really pleased to see that money go to the communities where it needs to go.”

Murphy told The Islander he was satisfied with the reallocation.

“I thought it would be good to channel some of those funds out here to Anna Maria,” he said. “I’m just real pleased we were able to accomplish that.”

“This is a great boon, not only for the food pantry but also for All Island Denominations,” he added. “Both of those agencies do a tremendous job of helping the people that are here in this community out here on the island.”


To get help

For more information about the Roser Food Pantry, go to or call Roser at 941-778-0414. Roser is at 512 Pine Ave., Anna Maria.

For more AID information, contact the office or administrator of any of the island churches.


About the new stimulus package

With Congress at odds over $2,000 stimulus checks, it may be best to break down what was approved.

The $2.3 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act, which Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed into law, included a $900 billion stimulus relief package that will provide:

  • $600 direct payments per adult citizen;
  • $284 billion for forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans;
  • $15 billion for live venues, independent movie theaters and cultural institutions;
  • $300 per week for unemployment insurance benefits per individual;
  • $25 billion for rental assistance and an eviction moratorium extension.

The stimulus would be the first COVID-19 relief bill since the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act passed in March and extended the CARES Act funding deadline through 2021.

The first aid bill distributed $500 billion in direct payments to U.S. citizens, created the PPP with a $669 billion fund, $500 billion in corporate loans and $339.8 billion to state and local governments.

The CARES Act sent $70 million to the Manatee County coffers, which then allowed programs to redistribute the money.

The PPP sent more than $20 million to Anna Maria Island businesses, as business owners in Anna Maria received $10,288,682 in loans or grants, $3,682,003 in Bradenton Beach and $6,107,351 in Holmes Beach.

The remaining $1.4 trillion in the CAA is attributed to an omnibus government spending bill to keep the federal government from shutting down.

— Ryan Paice