Pensacola businessman, philanthropist donates $200k to food bank

PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — A Pensacola businessman and philanthropist announced a $200,000 donation to a food bank.

Shawn Esfahani, founder of the Shawn Esfahani Foundation — an organization with the focus of financially supporting communities in need — hosted the “Souper Bowl of Caring” food drive in Pensacola on Monday, Feb. 5.

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During the charity event, Esfahani said he encountered the Marketing and Events Manager for Manna Food Pantry — a food pantry aimed at helping feed those in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties — Melissa Branton.

“I was on my way to the bathroom and suddenly this young lady [Branton] with the most beautiful smile introduces herself and asks me to donate a can of food to the food drive,” Esfahani remembered.

Melissa Branton, left, and Shawn Esfahani, right. (Photo courtesy of Shawn Esfahani Foundation)
Melissa Branton, left, and Shawn Esfahani, right. (Photo courtesy of Shawn Esfahani Foundation)

According to Esfahani, he did not have a can of food and was put in an “awkward position” being the sponsor of the event. Instead of donating a can, Esfahani said he would donate $50,000 to the food pantry along with an additional $150,000 over 10 years.

Esfahani explained that the goals of the Manna Food Pantry aligned with the goals of his foundation. According to a news release, Esfahani’s foundation has donated over $2 million in cash and grants to local charities involved in community feeding and sheltering.

“I was so impressed by Ms. Branton and Manna Pantry (headed by DeDe Flounlacker) that I knew I wanted my foundation to be a bigger part of this wonderful organization,” Esfahani said.

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