As the cost of food rises nationally, Southwest Florida food banks are seeing more people turning to them for help. But the food banks themselves are having a hard time keeping food on the shelves.
The Midwest Food Bank located at 5601 Division Drive in Fort Myers is budgeting $50,000 extra in 2022 just to keep up with higher prices. It’s not just the homeless population showing up to these food banks, but a lot of people with residences who need help and have a hard time with their grocery bills.
Stephanie Edwards, CEO of the Community Cooperative soup kitchen located at 3429 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Fort Myers, says donations have been scarce because of the increased costs and that those contributions are something food banks heavily rely on.
“We’re working really hard here at Community Cooperative to go out and really fundraise to be able to buy the food that we need, because of the donations being down,” Edwards said. “It’s definitely a scary time for an organization like ours, where our mission is really to end hunger and homelessness here in Lee County. And we have to work hard to ensure that we can keep our shelves stocked.”
Edwards says it’s easy to get involved. You can even start in the comfort of your own home—little tasks like going through your pantry and donating items that are not expired but that you no longer need. Some other ways to get involved include volunteering and donating during food drives and contributing financial donations.
“If you can imagine the individuals that are looking to get help from our programs, they’re families, just like mine or just like yours,” Edwards said. “So the shelves here need to be stocked with good, fresh items for folks. If you’re shopping and there’s a BOGO sale, buy one for you and then buy one for an organization like Community Cooperative and donate it.”