March to a Million Meals: Harry Chapin Food Bank bringing fresh produce to hungry families

Reporter: Amy Oshier Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:

WINK News is marching towards feeding 1 million people by March 1.

Our March to a Million Meals campaign helps the Harry Chapin Food Bank continue its mission of helping families in need.

You can pitch in by making a donation.

When food is scarce, people often turn to inexpensive fast food, full of what doctors call “empty calories.” This is why the fresh, wholesome food delivered by the Harry Chapin Food Bank makes a meaningful difference for kids in Southwest Florida.

In rescuing produce that would go unused by local farms and growers, Harry Chapin helps save the health of families in need. Accessing quality food is especially important to growing children.

“It plays a big role in their health, it plays a big role in them fighting off diseases, it aids in the immune system’s function,” said Fort Myers pediatrician Dr. David Butler. “It helps with learning, it helps with development, it helps with their social skills, it helps with school performance.”

Richard Leber, president and CEO of the Harry Chapin Food Bank, says nearly 30% of the food that families receive is fresh produce harvested from Southwest Florida, fruits and vegetables they might otherwise go without.

“We have zucchini and squash and lettuce and tomatoes and cucumbers and fruit of various kinds, we have all kinds of fresh fruits,” Leber said. “It’s very possible to be hungry and also malnourished at the same time, because a lot of times what’s available to people are cheap and easy carbs and high-fat things.”

When food is in short supply, too much of what kids eat is empty calories, processed and pre-packaged, when what they really need is a balanced diet.

“Good food we consider fruits, vegetables, natural fruits and vegetables that haven’t been processed, that haven’t been mixed with sugar,” Butler said. “Whole grains are very good as well, lean proteins… a lot of people, especially children and teenagers, will hide the fact that they don’t have enough food, they’re ashamed of it. So, we see a lot more anxiety and a lot more depression.”

With every dollar, Harry Chapin makes a difference—nourishing bodies, strengthening minds and communities.

“We want to make sure that everybody that we serve is well-fed,” Leber said. “And that means not just having a full belly.”

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