The air was festive and the front loading dock of Harry Chapin Food Bank was a sea of green today, as a small army of Publix Super Markets officials and associates in their signature green shirts delivered a semi-tractor trailer load of food for those in need.
And they brought even more green, the monetary kind, in the form of a $120,000 donation from Publix Super Markets Charities to buy a new refrigerated truck.
About 35 guests were on hand for the presentation, which was peppered with frequent applause and kudos for the grocery store chain, which has partnered with the food bank for many years in donating food and holding food drives.
Wednesday’s food donation included 22 pallets containing basic grocery items needed most by the food bank, such as peanut butter, jelly, cereal, pasta, pasta sauce, tuna and other items.
The donation of the new refrigerated truck means that the food bank will be able to increase its pickup and transport of perishable items that are donated by retailers, thus rescuing more food from going to waste.
Since 2011, Publix has donated a total of 15.5 million pounds of food to Harry Chapin Food Bank. Using today’s value per pound of food ($1.69 per pound) these donations have a total food value of $26.1 million, all benefiting our neighbors in need in Southwest Florida.
“Most of you have children or grandchildren and take their hand as you walk to the table for a meal,” Toby Ives, interim President and CEO of the Harry Chapin Food Bank, told the audience. “Because of your support for the Harry Chapin Food Bank, you’re taking two hands – your child or grandchild, and that of another child who often does not have enough to eat, as you go to the table.”
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 48 million Americans have limited or uncertain access to adequate food, and hunger is a reality for one in seven people living in the United States.
In Southwest Florida, despite a recovering economy, the need is still great. In Lee County alone, 14.7 percent of residents, or nearly 93,000 people, don’t know where their next meal will come from, according to Feeding America’s 2015 “Map the Meal Gap” study. In Collier County, the statistics are 12.5 percent of residents, or about 41,000 people.
Publix Super Markets Charities’ donation to Harry Chapin Food Bank is part of $1.5 million donation to Feeding America, the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief charity, and 12 member food banks across Publix’s operating area, including the Harry Chapin Food Bank.
Publix was named a “Visionary Partner” by Stephanie Dragatsis, vice president of Feeding America’s Compliance/Capability Team. The honor is given to those who exhibit the highest level of partnership and are leaders in the anti-hunger community, she said.
“Part of the DNA of Publix is giving back to the community,” said Cliff Smith, president of the United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades and Okeechobee Counties. “We are still recovering from the recession and this will go a long way to help the Harry Chapin Food Bank in its mission.”
State Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples, called Publix a community “rock star” and a great corporate partner.
“When we work together, there is nothing we can’t do for our community,” Hudson said. He noted that in the food bank warehouse, work continued as usual while the presentation was going on. “And it should,” Hudson said. “Because work matters.”
Others in attendance included Lee County Commissioner Frank Mann, several Harry Chapin Food Bank board members and Capital Campaign Committee members; representatives of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and U.S. Rep. Curt Clawson, R-District 19; and the Bonita Springs Chamber of Commerce.