Gainesville Open MRI wants you to raid your pantry for a bag of rice, can of tuna or box of macaroni and cheese to feed a hungry belly.
The medical group will give back to the Bread of the Mighty Food Bank by kicking off its first food drive from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday.
There will be a car show, bounce house and pictures with Santa Claus. The event is free, but donations are welcome.
“It’s Gainesville’s largest and best food bank,” said Joe Colorio, manager of Gainesville Open MRI. “We want to collect as much perishable food as possible.”
The staff of the medical facility wants to do something special with the public, Colorio said. The group will sponsor a family event while giving food to the less fortunate. Because Thanksgiving takes a toll on the food bank, Open MRI will help it prepare for the holiday season.
The Gainesville Open MRI has been in business for more than 15 years.
“You see hunger for hope in people with need. Those who used to be donating to us are now the ones standing in our lines,” said Marcia Conwell, executive director of the food bank. “And our lines are not getting any smaller because the need isn’t being filled.”
Conwell said she has worked with the food bank since 2004 and has fed people across North Florida in Alachua, Dixie, Gilchrist, Lafayette and Levy counties.
The food bank has helped North Central Florida since 1987, she said. This year, the food bank distributed more than 35,000 pounds of food, she said. In addition, from 2011 to 2012, it distributed about 4.8 million pounds.
“If we collected 8 million pounds of food, I would be able to send everyone away happy — and full,” she said.
Within the five counties, one out of four children is food-deprived, and one out of five senior citizens don’t know if they will eat tonight, Conwell said.
Shands at UF, North Florida Regional Medical Center, Publix, Walmart and other companies often host food drives for the bank throughout the year, and the food bank is happy to have the support of Gainesville Open MRI.
“People have hope when you hand them food and they are hungry,” she said.