By: Louise Bain
Programs Outreach Coordinator
Can you imagine living in Southwest Florida and not having a grocery store in your town? Or having to ride the bus for 45 minutes to get to Publix or Walmart to shop for your family’s meals on an already limited budget?
This is the reality for many people living in paradise. How does the Harry Chapin Food Bank help provide food to our neighbors in need who have limited access to food or transportation? Our mobile pantry program serves clients at many locations throughout our five counties including schools, partner agencies and outlying rural areas.
Trucks filled with canned and dry goods such as juice, cereal, ravioli, and vegetables along with bread, fresh produce, frozen food/meat and other items set up at a selected location. Volunteers distribute food to clients in a two-hour time frame. Volunteers are a very important part of our mobile pantry distributions and many of them tell us it’s one of the most rewarding volunteer experiences they’ve had. We are also working with other community social service providers to provide additional services, such as blood pressure checks and resource information at our distributions.
One mobile pantry distribution can feed up to 300 families. Each family receives about 40 pounds of food, which can provide three- to- four days of meals. We have regularly scheduled distributions at several schools in Collier County, which are generously funded by a grant from NCEF (Naples Children Education Foundation), as well as in Lee, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties through other grants the food bank receives.
Our most recent mobile pantry was held on Wednesday, December 9th at Moore Haven Elementary School in Glades County. Moore Haven does not have a “real” grocery store. There is no Publix, Winn-Dixie, or Walmart Supercenter there, only a few small mini-markets that have a limited selection of items that tend to be more expensive.
Students from Moore Haven Junior-Senior High volunteered at the distribution and really enjoyed being able to help serve their neighbors. If you would like to volunteer at a mobile pantry, please contact Tanya Phillips, Volunteer Manager at 239-334-7007, ext. 141. For more information on sponsoring a mobile pantry, contact Miriam Pereira, Director of Development at 239-334-7007, ext. 127.