IN THE COM­MU­NITY

Mo­bile food pantries de­liver hol­i­day cheer

RSWLiving - - CONTENT - For in­for­ma­tion, con­tact: Harry Chapin Food Bank of South­west Florida, 3760 Fowler Street, Fort Myers, 239-334-7007, har­rychap­in­food­bank.org; Com­mu­nity Co­op­er­a­tive, 3429 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Fort Myers, 239-332-7687, com­mu­ni­ty­co­op­er­a­tive.com.

With the hol­i­days ap­proach­ing, South­west Florid­i­ans are busy mak­ing prepa­ra­tions. It’s a task that takes both time and money. For some, the hol­i­day sea­son is even harder, as it’s a strug­gle even to put food on the ta­ble. In South­west Florida, 12 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion, in­clud­ing chil­dren, don’t al­ways know where their next meal is com­ing from, ac­cord­ing to the most re­cent data re­leased by Feed­ing Amer­ica, the na­tion’s largest hunger re­lief or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Thanks to mo­bile food pantries, such as the Harry Chapin Food Bank of South­west Florida and Com­mu­nity Co­op­er­a­tive, there is hope for the hol­i­days. These two or­ga­ni­za­tions work tire­lessly to help those in need over the hol­i­days and be­yond.

The Harry Chapin Food Bank of South­west Florida op­er­ates 25 mo­bile food trucks through its Ful­fill Mo­bile Pantries pro­gram, each serv­ing up to 250 fam­i­lies, dis­tribut­ing 4,000 to 6,000 pounds of food at each pantry, or 3,300 to 5,000 meals in Lee, Col­lier, Char­lotte, Hendry and Glades coun­ties.

“We are the largest hunger-re­lief or­ga­ni­za­tion in South­west Florida, and about 96 per­cent of donations raised go di­rectly to our pro­grams,” ex­plains Mary Woz­niak, mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager.

Com­mu­nity Co­op­er­a­tive is an­other lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tion of­fer­ing mo­bile food pantries that pro­vide fresh/frozen meat, fresh pro­duce, dairy, fresh bread and nu­mer­ous other pantry items to its Lee County clients. The or­ga­ni­za­tion part­ners with Feed the Pack and Gulf Coast Hu­mane So­ci­ety to help en­sure that dog and cat food is also made avail­able.

The com­mu­nity is en­cour­aged to do­nate hol­i­day food items such as tur­keys for the Com­mu­nity Co­op­er­a­tive’s an­nual Full Plates Project, held around Thanks­giv­ing. “We have a goal of bring­ing in 2,500 tur­keys this year,” says Jazzy Proc­tor, de­vel­op­ment and events co­or­di­na­tor.

Other hol­i­day pro­grams of­fered by Com­mu­nity Co­op­er­a­tive are de­signed to help spe­cific seg­ments of the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion, such as the Adopt a Se­nior and Adopt a Fam­ily pro­grams. “Last year we had about 70 fam­i­lies and 50 spe­cific se­niors ‘adopted’ for the hol­i­days,” says Proc­tor.

South­west Florid­i­ans are en­cour­aged to do­nate to or vol­un­teer at ei­ther or­ga­ni­za­tion to help make the hol­i­days mer­rier for more lo­cal res­i­dents in need.

Vol­un­teers dis­trib­ute bread and other foods at one of the Harry Chapin Food Bank’s Coastal Re­lief Cam­paign mo­bile pantries, set up to aid those im­pacted by the red tide and blue-green al­gae cri­sis in 2018.

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