The Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida began in 1983, with its original name being the Lee County Food Cooperative. During that time, the cooperative’s primary responsibility was to aid in the distribution of surpluses of cheese and other dairy products held by the federal government. The cooperative then began recovering other food products through food drives. In more recent years, the food bank also has focused on salvaging fresh, nutritious food from retailers and growers. Throughout the 1980s, the cooperative grew in size and effectiveness, earning the reputation it deserves today as the #1 safety net for the hungry in Southwest Florida.
Becoming the exclusive distribution agent for U.S. Department of Agriculture commodities in Southwest Florida, the Food Bank continued growing. In 1994, the food bank moved into a former meat processing plant on Alicia Street in Fort Myers and changed its name to the Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida, in honor of the late singer and anti-hunger advocate. Harry’s family and original band continue to help the food bank through an annual concert at Boca Grande.
By 2008, as the Great Recession struck Southwest Florida, the food bank moved to a 50,000-square-foot warehouse to better serve the growing number of children and families going hungry in our community.