SWFL food banks support community and seek community support

Reporter: Justin Kase Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:

As many try to make ends meet during this trying time, organizations are working around the clock to fill the need for food—and the need is great.

A line at St. Matthew’s House in Collier County, where they are serving people, is one among many signs that food insecurity is an issue in Southwest Florida during the coronavirus pandemic.

Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida is also continuing to step up to the plate.

Thursday, we looked at how food banks in our region are continuing their missions while facing the obstacles brought on by the coronavirus.

A donation of $70,000 is making its way from the Southwest Florida Community Foundation to the United Way. This will benefit local food banks working to feed people during this pandemic.

“Hunger, a lot of times, it’s a budgetary issue for people,” said Richard LeBer, the president and CEO of Harry Chapin Food Bank. “If you have been laid off, if you are experiencing a hardship, one of the first places it tends to show up is in the food budget.”

Harry Chapin Food Bank is operating mobile food pantries and putting together meal kits to keep up with the increasing demand.

“If you go get the food, which is really easy to go get through these partners that we have, you can free up those dollars you normally spend on your groceries and put it towards medication, utilities or rent payments,” said Jeannine Joy, the president and CEO of United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades and Okeechobee counties.

Local food banks, such as Harry Chapin, sometimes get food donated from local grocery stores. But, because many have seen their supplies depleted, these donations are so crucial.

We’re getting in truckload quantities of canned vegetables and canned fruit and protein items and dry goods, etc.,” Leber said. “That’s because we’re spending our own money and going out and buying it. That’s not something we normally try to do, but, under these circumstances, we really have no choice.”

We reported Harry Chapin Food Bank will receive a portion of a donation made by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to Feeding America. We learned that donation will be a total of $500,000 to the food bank.

United Way recognizes that local needs may change. And it will redirect donations when that happens. But a continued need during the pandemic is community support.

“If people are watching this and that stimulus check comes in and you’re fortunate enough to not be one of the people who really needed it, consider donating a part of it,” Joy said. “Because you’ll be helping your neighbors, your family, your friends, your coworkers.”

If you would like to contribute to the local food banks around SWFL we have provided links below to different organizations accepting donations.

St. Matthews House

Harry Chapin Food Bank

United Way Lee

Southwest Florida Community Foundation

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