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Feed the 5000 Now seeking donations to feed the hungry

By Staff | Apr 2, 2019

TIFFANY REPECKI Michael and Sharon Bugler

One out of seven adults and one out of four children residing in Lee County do not know where their next meal will come from, but something as simple as a donation of $1 a day can change that.

Seven years ago, Sanibel residents Michael and Sharon Bugler started Feed the 5000 Now. The campaign partners with a handful of local organizations to turn a $1 donation into $8 worth of food, feeding one person for a day. The couple came up with the idea after fastening for the first time.

“Try not eating for two days and just find out what that feels like,” Michael Bugler said. “But the difference between me and the people we help, when I fasted I knew I was going to eat again.”

Of the over 600,000 people in Lee County, an estimated 92,000 are “food insecure,” meaning they do not know when they will eat next. Of the 122,000 children, 32,000 are food insecure – 26 percent.

“I think the significant thing is it’s not getting better,” he said of going into year seven.

“Lee County still has a problem,” Bugler added.

He pointed out there can be a perception about who receives the help.

“I think the common misconception is we’re trying to feed vagrants, but that’s not who we’re trying to feed,” Bugler said. “They’re our neighbors. They are normal working people on minimum wage.”

“They’re trying to survive in a vacation area where rents are high,” he added.

Bugler noted that another category benefitting from the food assistance is the retired, sometimes described as “house rich and cash poor.” They are forced to choose between medical bills and food.

Last year, the campaign raised about $54,000 to $55,000, which translated into the purchase of $460,000 worth of food for organizations like the men’s Rescue Mission is downtown Fort Myers, Salvation Army and South Fort Myers Food Panty. The sixth year hit a milestone for donations.

“We’ve just gone past the $2 million mark for total food bought,” Bugler said.

The couple has added a new initiative to the recipient list, working with the Midwest Food Bank in North Fort Myers. The campaign supports a backpack program for students to bring food home.

Feed the 5000 Now also provided emergency funds to F.I.S.H. of Sanibel-Captiva last year.

“They really got hit during the red tide period,” he said of its food pantry.

Bugler explained that he and his wife’s church, Sanibel Community Church, handles the funds and nothing goes toward administration costs. The church collects and distributes the donations received.

“Every single penny that gets raised is spent on food,” he said. “They take nothing.”

For the month of April, people are asked to donate $1 per day or $30 in total.

“We ask people if they can just for a month set a dollar aside for each day – $30 will feed 30 people,” Bugler said, noting that more is welcome. “If you put $365 in, you feed someone for the full year.”

To donate to Feed the 5000 Now, mail a check to the Sanibel Community Church, at 1740 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, FL 33957 and note “Feed the 5000 Now” in the memo line. People can also visit sanibelchurch.com and donate via “Online Giving” under the Resources tab; again, note the campaign.

“We’re just asking for a $1 a day,” he said. “It’s less than a cup of coffee.”

For more information, contact the Buglers at 239-472-5574 or thebuglers@hotmail.com.