CEO of Harry Chapin Food Bank, one of Gulfshore Life’s Men of the Year

Reporter: Lois Thome Writer: Matias Abril
Published: Updated:

No one feeds more people in Southwest Florida than Richard LeBer. As the head of the Harry Chapin Food Bank, his organization feeds more than a quarter of a million people each month.

That dedication to feeding people in need is why LeBer is honored this month as one of Gulfshore Life’s Men of the Year.

Bursting at the seams, the Harry Chapin Food Bank is a model of efficiency, and it has to be if Southwest Florida’s working poor are going to have food on the table.

“I’m just continually appalled by the idea that in the United States of America, in Southwest Florida, one of the wealthiest and most affluent parts of the United States of America, that anybody should ever go hungry,” LeBer said.

A graduate of Harvard Business School, LeBer was working a comfortable corporate job in Atlanta when the issue of hunger found him.

“Because I was doing pretty well. It wasn’t visible to me, really,” LeBer said. “I wasn’t paying attention, but I became aware of the problem, and as I began to understand how important the food bank is, in particular, to making millions of pounds of food available to a community. That’s when I really started to get fired up about it.”

That fire in his belly has helped the food bank satisfy hunger under challenging circumstances.

Long lines formed after hurricanes Irma and Ian, COVID-19, a government shutdown, and red tide left people struggling for work and to feed their families.

In LeBer’s seven years at the helm, the food bank has seen a 275% increase in food going out.

“By 2030, we should be routinely distributing 50 million pounds of food or more every year. That’s without a hurricane or pandemic or extraordinary inflation or anything else,” LeBer said.

LeBer said it’s good, nutritious food you’d be proud to feed your family. But he couldn’t do it without his hard-working staff and a corps of volunteers unwilling to sit on the sidelines.

“I wouldn’t be receiving this honor if it wasn’t for all the wonderful people who have worked and have worked here at the food bank or worked alongside us. I wouldn’t be here. The food bank wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for all the wonderful support from our community. People in this community have been wonderfully generous and supportive to the food bank and to me, and I’m eternally grateful for that,” LeBer said.

All of the Men and Women of the year are being honored at an event this week. You can read more about them in this month’s Gulfshore Life magazine.

Here’s where to go if you need assistance from the food bank.

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