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Rotary Happenings: Rotary hears from Harry Chapin Food Bank official

By Staff | Apr 23, 2019

The Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club’s guest speaker on April 12 was Richard LeBer, president and chief executive officer of the Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida. LeBer started his presentation with these statistic: “The Harry Chapin Food Bank headquartered in Fort Myers and serving Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties provides food for about 28,000 individuals each week. It distributes 24 million pounds of food, which equates to 20 million meals, a total value of $41.5 million each year. The food bank rescues, inspects, transports and distributes donated food and other grocery products to more than 250 partner agencies including F.I.S.H. here on Sanibel that provide direct services to those in need. Partner agencies include church food pantries, soup kitchens, emergency shelters, disaster relief agencies and more.”

The Harry Chapin Food Bank is one of a group of stand-alone food bank operations across the nation that belong to the National Association of Food Banks. Harry Chapin and its servicing partners provide food possibly to people you encounter every day. Right here in our neighborhood, we have people working in the shops, restaurants, schools and hotels who are barely scraping by. With the help of distributing agencies such as soup kitchens, children’s food programs, residential programs, homeless shelters, AIDS programs, and senior programs; people who cannot afford to buy enough food to maintain good health are served. They say that many Americans across our nation are just a paycheck away from poverty.

People are in this situation in Florida and across America. The cost of housing in our communities are high, food costs, medical expenses, gas prices fluctuate, utility bills, et cetera fixed expenses must be paid first. Food becomes the only area from which you can cut costs. Anyone is vulnerable life happens accidents and medical emergencies, divorce, natural disasters, job layoffs or loss of jobs, temporary government shutdowns with income disruptions can happen. Any of these events can throw families into a financial crisis.

Hunger has consequences declining health, impaired mental judgement, lack of energy, behavioral problems, depression, isolation, and shame. According to a recent study, “Because childhood represents such a critical period in human development, the long-term impact of hunger on children can be extremely detrimental.” Harry Chapin and its partnering agencies service children in a plethora of ways with 10 school pantries, backpack programs, summer feeding programs, nutrition education, mobile neighborhood pantries and more. Since 2017, the Care & Share Senior Program supplements the diets of 2,300 low-income seniors through the five counties serviced by the Harry Chapin Food Bank.

During 2018 the Harry Chapin Food Bank and partnering resources Publix, Feed America, Walmart, Panera Bread, United Way, WINK Feeds Families, Feeding Florida, News-Press and additional food resources have provided 24.1 million pounds of food to the Chapin’s food distribution area. Food comes from growers, producers, distributors, retailers, and community food drives. Its goal is to provide 48 million pounds within five years. The need is there, and the goal is set.

Donated dollars help to provide storage, transport vehicles for pickup and delivery of food, transport fuel costs, drivers, and extremely small administrate costs. Last year, the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary joined other clubs in District 6960 to help purchase a refrigerated truck for the Harry Chapin Food Bank.

For information about the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club, visit sanibelrotary.org or www.facebook.com/sancaprotary. The club meets every Friday at 7 a.m. at the Dunes Golf and Tennis Club, at 949 Sand Castle Road, Sanibel; visitors are welcome to attend.