Harry Chapin Food Bank and the Coronavirus

Harry Chapin Food Bank and the Coronavirus 2560 1630 Harry Chapin Food Bank

Thursday, April 23, 2020

The sea of cars continues to grow.

Yesterday your food bank held a drive-thru distribution at the Golden Gate Community Center in Collier County. We are not strangers to this community and distribution site. We have incredible partners in this community and yet we need to help them serve the residents of this four-square mile pocket of need. Many do not realize that the community of Golden Gate is a food desert. That means that there are not enough grocery stores to serve the residents in that location. Imagine that in Southwest Florida there are many pockets, and even an entire county that doesn’t have enough grocery stores to serve the residents who live there. In fact, 60.5% of Southwest Florida is a food desert, well above the statewide average of 47.9% according to Dr. Thomas Felke, associate professor in the Department of Social Work at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Prior to Coronavirus pandemic, your food bank would typically serve 200 – 250 Golden Gate families in need of food. Yesterday, your food bank served 640 families. These families received food kits supplemented with fresh produce that we rescued from Florida farmers. Last Saturday, Grace Place for Children and Families, one of our strategic partners in Golden Gate, served 650 families with food that your food bank provided them. By comparison, Grace Place served 240 families the week prior.

Lehigh Acres in Lee County is another food desert. Our distribution in that community has seen 61% growth since this pandemic began. In Charlotte County, about three-fourths, especially the eastern half that borders Glades, is a food desert. Your food bank’s distribution at the Harold Ave Regional Park grew by 37%. In Immokalee, our distribution at the Boys and Girls Club has grown by 50%. If you need food, please click here.

These growths are on top of what our partner organizations operating these pantries are experiencing. Your food bank provides roughly 70% of their food inventory. We are thrilled to report that our food sourcing for these pantries are starting to increase.

To meet this growing demand, your food bank needs to secure a volunteer workforce. We need volunteers that are able to work in our warehouses, sorting produce and building food kits. We need volunteers to work at our distributions throughout our five-county footprint. If you are well, able and willing to volunteer, please sign up here.

Our increased costs due to the pandemic exceed $3.6 million. We anticipate those costs will continue to climb. Even if the governor lifts the Stay At Home order that was issued last month, the economic impact that our families are burdened with will last months.

Each kit is roughly 20 pounds of food which would provide food for five days for a family of four. The cost is $30 per kit. We are currently distributing 5,000 kits a week on top of our normal programs. To support our efforts, please click here.

Your food bank is committed to ensuring that no one has to go hungry. We are incredibly grateful to our community that is pulling together as it will truly take all of us to take a bite out of hunger.