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Hunger in our land of plenty

By Staff | Apr 21, 2023

Efforts to put food on local tables got a big boost this month with a $1 million grant from Feeding America and the Walmart Foundation.

The grant, to be paid over three years, will allow the Harry Chapin Food Bank to expand its “retail rescue” program. Through the initiative, the hunger-relief organization and its partners collect donations of various types of food — everything from shelf-stable non-perishables to meat and produce — from retailers across the five counties the food bank serves.

The food then provides, literally, millions of meals.

The Harry Chapin Food Bank estimates it feeds more than a quarter million people per month in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties and its annual numbers illuminate a serious problem here in Southwest Florida.

“Harry Chapin Food Bank distributed $61.5 million worth of food in fiscal year 2022,” the organization’s website states. “Through our food distribution programs, we supplied 34.7 million pounds of food and other grocery items, including 12 million pounds of fresh produce. The food is the equivalent of 29 million meals distributed to those who are hungry.”

If you’re a part-time resident getting ready for your trek “back north,” or if you are just feeling generous and would like to share your stocked up BOGOs, you can add to the effort.

The food bank’s next big drive is less than a month away. In partnership with United Way and the National Association of Letter Carriers, the 31st annual Stamp Out Hunger food drive is set for Saturday, May 13.

Residents can leave donations of non-perishable food items next to their mailboxes on May 13 or drop them off at any post office before the 13th.

Or, to address the issue of food instability in another way, there are a pair of events coming up to aid those who are hungry and homeless.

The Community Cooperative is asking businesses and residents to “help spread the love” by donating any brand of peanut butter, almond or alternative nut better, and any flavor jelly or jam (in plastic jars, please) to its PB&J drive. The effort continues through April 24.

The community also is invited to come out and enjoy a bowl of soup, live entertainment and food truck offerings at the cooperative’s family-friendly Empty Bowls fundraiser, set for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., on Saturday, April 29, at the Alliance for the Arts at 10091 McGregor Blvd.

Admission, which will include a bowl of soup and a handcrafted ceramic bowl made by Lee County students, is $10 for adults, free for children.

For more information on the Peanut Butter & Jelly drive, email Janelle@CommunityCooperative.com or visit communitycooperative.com where monetary donations also are accepted.

For more information or to make a donation to the Harry Chapin Food Bank, visit harrychapinfoodbank.org.

In the wake of Hurricane Ian, in the current housing crunch, the need is great.

Collectively, as a community, we can make a difference.

–Breeze editorial