Harry Chapin Food Bank feeding Southwest Florida’s rural communities

Reporter: Taylor Petras Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:

In a survey from No Kid Hungry Florida, 26% of moms and dads said they are worried that everyone in their households won’t have enough to eat. Even in Southwest Florida’s rural communities like Immokalee, communities that grow and harvest a lot of the produce we eat, people say they can’t get that nutritious food for their own families.

The RCMA Center in Immokalee is much more than an early education center for Erika Pacheco Franco’s little boy—it’s helping her feed her husband and four children, thanks to boxes of food dropped off monthly from the Harry Chapin Food Bank.

“Every time I pick up my son, teachers are always asking if we need food,” Franco said. “The boxes have spaghetti, tomato paste, rice, beans, the basics… what we need.”

Right now, Franco isn’t working, but her husband works in the fields. She says her family has never been without food, but rising prices are making it more difficult to afford to eat.

“Everything is so expensive, and the hourly wage does not go up,” Franco said. “These food boxes are beneficial, especially when you can take two boxes that help you out even more.”

The closest Walmart for families in Immokalee is 25 miles away in LaBelle, and many people don’t have a way to get there. All while prices for gas, groceries and rent continue to rise.

Sky Beard, the director of No Kid Hungry Florida, says there are challenges to getting food to rural communities like Immokalee.

“There is usually food to be found; it is better connecting families to what’s available,” Beard said. “In rural communities, that’s extra tricky, right? Because there’s logistics and space and transportation involved that makes it even harder.”

That is where the Harry Chapin Food Back comes in, bringing food to Southwest Florida’s farm families.

Leticia Cardenas, the RCMA Center’s coordinator, says the program is making a difference for the families they serve.

“You can see the smile on the families just taking those boxes,” Cardenas said. “To them, it means a lot. You know, that means I can just come and pick up a box, and I don’t have to pay extra money just to go buy it.”

This ensures children get their bellies full at lunch when they go to school and have food on the table when they go home for dinner.

Throughout Monday, the Rist Family Foundation is matching donations of up to $25,000.

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