IN THE COMMUNITY
Mobile food pantries deliver holiday cheer
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.