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Jaguars, Winn-Dixie kickoff food drive

This week the Jaguars, along with corporate partner Winn-Dixie, moved the chains for a big first down in launching the Jaguars' 14th Annual Food Drive to benefit thousands of needy families on Florida's First Coast.

The shelves at the Food Bank are empty, and restocking those shelves with food is crucial as the holidays approach. Support from fans and neighbors by donating non-perishable food items during the next four weeks at area Winn-Dixie stores is the best way to get involved in helping to relieve hunger. Forty-four participating Winn-Dixie stores within Jacksonville are serving as collection sites.

At the kickoff event, Winn-Dixie donated a truckload of food items totaling 32,000 pounds to begin the Food Drive's four-week campaign. This donation will help the Second Harvest Food Bank of North Florida's food supply in preparation for the upcoming holiday. But this is only the beginning.

"We at Winn-Dixie are committed to making this the most successful drive ever," said Dan Portnoy, Winn-Dixie's chief merchandising and marketing officer.

"It's all loaded in the truck ready to go," he added. "The 32,000 pounds is about a pound-and-a-half for each person being fed. That's 24,000 meals that we can start serving right away for our First Coast neighbors that really need the help and support."

The Food Bank's need is year-round and the demand for services has greatly increased due to current economic conditions. Without a doubt, these are difficult times for many families. Wayne Rieley, executive director of Second Harvest Food Bank of North Florida, knows first-hand the benefits of having stocked shelves and the importance of having food supplies for families and people in need.

"Twenty-four thousand meals is significant, and this will help so many people at this time of year," Rieley said. "We're just very fortunate to have great partners as the Jaguars and Winn-Dixie to help us meet our goals in feeding those who are in hunger or don't know where there food will come from."

The Jaguars, Winn-Dixie and Second Harvest Food Bank of North Florida are calling upon fans and First Coast residents to donate non-perishable food items during the next four weeks at area Winn-Dixie stores. The final drive is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 23 when the Jaguars host the Minnesota Vikings at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium. Fans are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items to the stadium for collection at that game.

You can make a difference this holiday season by helping to eliminate hunger right here at home.

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