2018-03-01 / Spotlight News

Harry Chapin food bank, feeding hope for 35 years

By Cindy Dugan

A line of people wait for food at a Harry Chapin Food Bank mobile pantry held after Hurricane Irma at Parkside Elementary School in Naples. A line of people wait for food at a Harry Chapin Food Bank mobile pantry held after Hurricane Irma at Parkside Elementary School in Naples. Recent help for local people needing food in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma shows how much the Harry Chapin Food Bank is a part of the Southwest Florida fabric.

“We ordered ready-to-eat meals, water and ice for direct distribution before the hurricane even arrived,” said Miriam Pereira, director of development for the food bank. “The trucks arrived on Tuesday, despite hazardous traffic conditions. We unloaded 19 semis in one morning.”

The Mobile Pantry Program, called Fulfill, meets the needs of clients who would otherwise be unable to access food. Mobile pantry trucks distribute fresh produce, meat, beans and rice to community centers, schools and other central locations.

Following Irma, Fulfill held 90 mobile pantries in six weeks, supplying hurricane victims with more than 4 million pounds of food, water, and essential resources. Its Recover, Rebuild, Restore fundraising campaign raised $ 590,370 to help the community recover from the hurricane. HCFB recently received a $150,000 grant from Publix Super Market Charities to purchase a new refrigerated mobile pantry truck.

The Harry Chapin Food Bank is 35 years old, although it didn’t bear the name of the popular singer-songwriter of the 1970s until 1994.

Chapin died in a car accident in 1981 when he was 39 years old. The Lee County Food Cooperative, founded in 1983, changed its name 11 years later, after a board member and friend got permission from the Chapin family to do so as a tribute to the singer, who was a dedicated anti-hunger advocate.

The Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida is the No. 1 safety net for the hungry, providing food and other essentials to 28,000 people each week, in Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties.

“HCFB can turn a donated dollar into $ 8 worth of food because it continues to be more efficient in the way it rescues food that would otherwise go to waste, then distributes it to our 150 partner agencies,” said HCFB president and CEO Richard LeBer.

Its 55,000-square-foot Fort Myers facility stocks items in non- refrigerated, refrigerated and freezer areas. HCFB has 55 employees and 6,100 volunteers ranging in age from 16 to over 90.

Local food pantries rely on HCFB to supplement their programs. HCFB and Interfaith Charities of South Lee have partnered for more than 16 years. “Their truck makes deliveries to our food pantry twice weekly. We order from a list of items they have on hand for the first delivery. The second delivery, from store pickups, includes bakery, deli and produce,” said Interfaith Charities’ Board President Bonnie Olson.

The Care & Share Senior Feeding Campaign supplements the diets of more than 2,200 low-income seniors with nutritious food kits, assembled at HCFB’s new 13,500-square-foot facility in Naples.

For a list of partner agencies or to learn more about HCFB’s programs, call 239-334-7007, or go to harrychapinfoodbank.org.

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