Go grocery shopping to help in fight vs. hunger

Go grocery shopping to help in fight vs. hunger 4032 3024 Harry Chapin Food Bank

On Saturday, Southwest Floridians will have a chance to show their support for the fight against hunger simply by going grocery shopping for themselves and their families at their local Publix Super Market.

Volunteer Kerry Kneitel accepts food from a Publix shopper during last year’s event.

Harry Chapin Food Bank and Publix are joining forces for “Feeding Southwest Florida,” a one-day food drive at all 62 Publix stores in Lee, Collier and Charlotte counties. The drive, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., will benefit the food bank and its programs that help feed the 1 in 8 people in Southwest Florida, including 1 in 5 children, who may not know where their next meal is coming from.

These include the Care and Share: Senior Feeding Program, Harry’s Helpings,

In-School Pantries, and Fulfill Mobile Pantries. In addition, Harry Chapin Food Bank’s Partner Agency Program provides food for distribution to more than 150 partner agencies in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Glades and Hendry counties.

Participating in Feeding Southwest Florida is easy. Just go to a Publix store and purchase one or more items in addition to the items you purchase to feed yourself or your family. Then donate the extra items as you leave the store. The 62 stores will be manned by members of the food bank staff and hundreds of volunteers, including volunteers from 32 of the food bank’s partner agencies.

They will include Sally Pavlica, a volunteer at the McGregor Baptist Church Food Pantry on Fowler Street in Fort Myers. Pavlica will be a team captain for her food pantry and said she is participating “because I see a huge need here in the community for food. Everybody knows Harry Chapin. They’re a very good organization with a big heart for the community.”

Publix Super Markets has also shown a big heart for the community.

“We are proud to partner with Publix in the Feeding Southwest Florida food drive on Saturday, and we thank them for their continuing support in our mission to lead our community in the fight to end hunger,” said Richard LeBer, food bank president and CEO.

Any donation of nonperishable food is welcome, but the items most needed are breakfast bars, canned fish or chicken, beans – dry or canned, other canned vegetables, cooking oil, pasta, pasta sauce, tomato sauce, dry milk, jelly, rice, cans of soup and beef stew.

Marcia Fain, director of the McGregor Baptist Church Food Pantry, said 24 of her volunteers will be participating. “We saw it as a good experience to collect from the community various things we don’t ordinarily get,” she said. “It’s so successful and such a good experience.” The McGregor Baptist pantry serves 600 people per month.

One of them is Barbara Andrews of Lehigh Acres, who came to the food pantry last week for the second time. Andrews, 58, is a foster mom who cares for her grandson and three other children. One child, who is now age 9, first came under her care at 6 months old.

A friend told her about the food pantry. Andrews gets about $38 per month in food stamps to supplement her disability income. Sometimes that means difficulty paying bills or getting medical treatment, like the severe toothache she can’t afford to get fixed In one way it’s a lot to deal with, but in another way, it isn’t, she said. “I love kids. I love working with kids.”

Still, “I need all the help I can get,” she said.

Harry Chapin Food Bank, a member of Feeding America, is the largest hunger- relief organization in

Southwest Florida. The food bank rescues food that would otherwise go to waste and distributes it to families and others in need through a series of programs that feed 28,000 people a week. For every dollar donated, the food bank can provide $8 in food value. In fiscal year 2018-19, Harry Chapin Food Bank distributed nearly 26.7 million pounds of food and other grocery items, including 6.4 million pounds of fresh produce. The food, valued at $42.8 million, is the equivalent of 22.2 million meals for people in need.