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How many people are hungry in Southwest Florida?
About 151,000 people struggle with hunger in Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties. Of that number, 46,470 are children. That means that 11.8 percent of a total 1.28 million population in those five counties are in need. The rate of child food insecurity for the five counties is 20.4 percent.
The numbers come from the Map the Meal Gap 2019 report by Feeding America, the nation’s largest network of 200 food banks, including the Harry Chapin Food Bank. The full report can be found at map.feedingamerica.org.
What does food insecurity mean?
The United States Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as limited or uncertain access to enough food for all members of a household to live an active, healthy life. We simply like to say that when someone is food insecure, they may not know where their next meal is coming from.
How many people do you serve?
We serve about a quarter of a million people each month. We do this through a network of more than 150 agencies throughout Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties. We also have a mobile pantry program, called Fulfill, which provides about 30 mobile pantries per month throughout the community.
Who are your clients?
They are families, children, seniors, veterans, single parents, the homeless and others. Our clients may have just lost a job or be underemployed. Some are unable to make ends meet, in the face of life emergencies. They may have had an accident. They may be battling illness, struggling to live on a fixed income, dealing with the death of a loved one, or divorce.
What is the difference between a food bank and a food pantry?
A food bank solicits, collects and stores large amounts of food, and then distributes it. Think of it as a bank with constant deposits and withdrawals. The food is distributed to more than 150 partner agencies. Some of the agencies we partner with may be food pantries, church soup kitchens and many other community organizations. We provide them with food, which they in turn distribute to people in need.
Can hungry people receive food directly from the Harry Chapin Food Bank?
No. We encourage those seeking food to visit our website and click on the Food Locator to find a partner agency or mobile pantry in their area. You can also call us at 239-334-7007 or dial 211, the United Way 211 information hotline, to find the nearest site.
How does the food bank get food?
We receive food donations through growers, producers, distributors, retailers, the United States Department of Agriculture, the Feeding America network, and of course, local food drives held by individuals, organizations, communities and businesses.. We also receive food from our Retail Rescue Program, which includes 140 area retailers. Major food donors include Publix Super Markets, Walmart and Sam’s Club.
How is the food distributed?
About 80,000 pounds of food per day pass through our warehouse on its way to our partner agencies and our mobile pantry program. Food arrives at the food bank in caseloads or pallets on tractor-trailers, large refrigerated trucks, and in private vehicles carrying the fruits of local food drives.
The food is inspected, sorted, labeled, and stored at our warehouse for repacking and distribution in sizes suitable for community food programs.
A comprehensive shopping or product list is maintained and made available daily via the food bank’s internal website, and each partner agency then creates its own food order by computer. The food bank’s staff and volunteers create and pack each individual order, usually weighing anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 pounds.
Representatives of some local partner agencies pick up their orders, while the food bank delivers orders to others. Every day, the food bank’s 19 trucks are acquiring food throughout Southwest Florida and/or delivering orders to our partner agencies. Our trucks travel more than 250,000 miles per year in our five-county region, which is more than ten trips around the earth (distance around the earth: 24,901 miles!)
How do you spend the money you receive in donations?
We are excellent stewards of the donations we receive, with 96 cents of every dollar donated directed to programs and services. For 10 consecutive years, Charity Navigator has given the food bank 4 stars – the national watchdog group’s highest rating –for cost-effectiveness and efficiency. We are able to leverage every dollar we receive into $8 worth of food value.
What does your vision mean?
Our vision is that no one has to go hungry in our community. The 24 million pounds of food we distributed in the last fiscal year helps, but our calculations show that to fully meet the growing need, we will need to distribute 48.6 million pounds of food by 2032. With the community’s help, we know we can get there.
Why are there so many hungry people in Southwest Florida?
One in eight people are food insecure in Southwest Florida, including one in five children. That’s according to Map the Meal Gap 2019, an annual study on food insecurity by Feeding America. There are so many hungry people because the population is constantly growing and our area’s economy is dependent on the tourism industry, which typically offers low-paying jobs. Many residents cannot make ends meet and live paycheck to paycheck. Emergency food programs are seeing more and more families who have never previously had to ask for charitable assistance. Many who donated food and funds in the past are being forced to ask for aid.
Does the food bank get involved in food safety and nutrition issues?
The food bank is inspected by Feeding America, the nation’s largest food bank network, and is a member of Feeding Florida, the state association of food banks. We are also accredited by the American Institute of Baking (AIB), the gold standard for food safety. We routinely provide educational and regulatory programs for our partner agencies, and partner with other state and local organizations to raise awareness of hunger needs and poverty.
Other than food, how else does an agency benefit from partnering with the food bank?
In addition to food and grocery products, we provide training in safe food handling, inspection, inventory control, and sanitation. We also furnish nutrition information through our website and newsletters.
What about food drives and other gifts of food?
Companies, churches, service groups, communities and individuals hold food donation and funding drives throughout the year to donate food to the food bank. We have a registration form and a food drive information packet with suggestions and guidelines. We will gladly work with anyone who wants to conduct a local drive to support food for the hungry.
Why is the food bank named Harry Chapin Food Bank?
The food bank is named for the late singer-songwriter Harry Chapin, who gave the proceeds from every other concert he performed to the cause of fighting hunger.