The mobile pantry program at the Harry Chapin Food Bank enables us to distribute nutritious food to clients who may not be able to access our partner agencies, due to location or transportation barriers. It is also a good avenue to provide additional resources to clients at the same time, including nutrition education.
In Collier County, we are working with the Extension Service (part of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences) to provide information on healthy food through its Cooking Matters program at our mobile pantry distributions. Cooking Matters teaches adults and children eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) about making healthful food choices, balancing food and physical activity, keeping food safe to eat, and food shopping on a budget.
At our mobile pantry distributions, Extension Service agents set up a booth and provide samples of healthy foods/snacks along with a recipe and nutrition information. Most children make the majority of their lifelong food choices by age five, so encouraging them to eat healthy, nutritious foods at an early age can have a lasting impact. The booth also adds an element of fun to the pantry distribution, which is evident by the many smiles we see when we encourage the families to visit the booth and try a sample.
Cooking Matters is part of the Family Nutrition Program, which is a partnership between USDA's Food and Nutrition Service, Florida Department of Children and Families, UF/IFAS, and the Collier County Extension Office.
In addition to the Extension Service, we are collaborating with other community agencies to provide additional services at our mobile pantry distributions, including basic health screenings, housing and legal information, adult education and employment resources, and more. If you are a community partner who is interested in participating at our mobile pantries, please contact me LouiseBain@harrychapinfoodbank.org or at 239-334-7007, ext. 134.