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Yes, here in paradise

By Staff | May 7, 2019


Beautiful beaches.

A booming economy.

And yet, hunger.

The Harry Chapin Food Bank released on Thursday Feeding America’s “Map the Meal Gap 2019” report and the numbers here in Southwest Florida continue to shock those of us who do not face our community’s need on a daily basis.

According to the release:

– Children in Southwest Florida are still more likely to face hunger than children nationwide: 20.4 percent of children are food insecure here vs. 17 percent of children nationwide. Of the 227,645 children in Southwest Florida, 46,470 have limited or uncertain access to a healthy breakfast, lunch or dinner.

– In terms of total food insecurity, the numbers across all age groups also are not acceptable. An estimated 1.28 million people live in the five counties served by the Harry Chapin Food Bank- Lee, Charlotte, Collier, Glades and Hendry. The number of individuals who are food insecure is 151,610. Yes, here in the land of plenty.

There are a number of ways to help make sure our neighbors in need have food on the table, especially during the summer months when access to free breakfast and lunch for school children is limited, when service jobs often pay less.

One is to assist the Harry Chapin Food Bank in its efforts to feed the hungry.

An affiliate of Feeding America, Harry Chapin is the largest hunger-relief organization in Southwest Florida, working with numerous agencies.

“The food bank solicits, collects and stores food for distribution to families and others in need through a network of more than 150 nonprofit agencies in Collier, Charlotte, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties, providing food to about 28,000 people a week,” the agency states.

“For every dollar donated, the food bank can provide $8 in food value. In fiscal year 2017-18, The Harry Chapin Food Bank distributed 24 million pounds of food and other grocery items, including 6.4 million pounds of fresh produce. The food, valued at $41.5 million, is the equivalent of 20 million meals for people in need.”

Even a “small” cash donation can help a lot.

To make a donation, call (239) 334-7007 or visit harrychapinfoodbank.org.

Contributing to a food drive helps as well.

There are a couple of big ones now ongoing or coming up.

The Letter Carriers’ National #StampOutHunger Food Drive is Saturday. Now in its 27th year, the annual drive is the largest in the country and, here in Southwest Florida, is the largest single-day food drive for Harry Chapin and the food banks and organizations it serves.

There are two ways to take part.

The first is to simply leave non-perishable food near your mailbox for collection on May 11.

The second is to volunteer.

Harry Chapin and partner agency United Way Lee need additional volunteers to help letter carriers collect food as well as to unload and sort food once it’s collected.

To learn more or to sign up to be a volunteer driver or food sorter, visit www.unitedwaylee.org/volunteer and click on Lee County Opportunities.

Meanwhile, the Harry Chapin Food Bank will benefit directly from Walmart’s ongoing “Fight Hunger. Spark Change” national campaign.

There are three ways to take part to take part in the initiative, which began April 22 and continues through May 20:

– Purchase a qualifying product from one of Walmart’s 18 supplier partners who then will donate the equivalent of one meal for each product sold. Funds raised locally benefit Harry Chapin.

– Donate directly to the campaign when checking out at a local Walmart or Sam’s Club. Funds donated locally benefit Harry Chapin.

– Donate online at feedingamerica.org/Walmart .

Despite our good economy, the need here in Southwest Florida remains.

No child, no family, should go hungry this summer.

If you are in need, please reach out.

If you are able, please give.

– Neighbor editorial