...And we’re not just talking about the snowbirds packing to leave for the season.
From corporate offices to churches and civic organizations, Harry Chapin Food Bank’s Naples warehouse has been the host site for many groups spending a couple of hours volunteering to pack produce -- all in the name of making sure our neighbors in need have fresh produce to eat and helping us continue our mission of Fighting Hunger, Feeding Hope.
For many years the goal in food distribution programs has been to provide emergency staple items such as rice, beans, and pasta. While these traditional shelf stable foods do provide some nutritional value, overconsumption of starchy foods and simple sugars can create a new host of health issues such as obesity, diabetes, and depletion of otherwise healthy immune systems. This is especially true concerning the most vulnerable in our society, our seniors and children.
Fresh produce represents approximately 30% of the food we distribute. The Fresh Produce Program at Harry Chapin Food Bank is in its fifth year of operation. In Collier County alone, we distributed 59,000 pounds of fresh produce in 2009. As of 2013, that number has increased to 875,000 pounds and will continue to rise this year and beyond in an effort to ensure our neighbors in need have access to nutritious, fresh fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet.
We have been able to achieve a significant growth, thanks, in part, to our volunteer groups that spend their afternoons with us. Harry Chapin Food Bank receives produce such as carrots, potatoes, squash, cucumbers, bell peppers, onions, oranges, apples and the like, in bulk, from more than 18 local farms and packing houses. From there, volunteers sort through and package the items in 3 to 4 pound bags. Once sorted and packaged, the produce is sent out to partner agencies or loaded onto mobile pantries for immediate distribution to families, children and seniors.
Having a community where so many can’t get the nutrition they need from fresh produce is just not acceptable. Therefore, making sure low-income families have access to fresh produce is a major priority here at the Harry Chapin Food Bank.
If you are interested in produce packing volunteer opportunities for your office, church group or other group, please contact Tanya Phillips at 239-334-7007 ext. 141.
The Harry Chapin Food Bank Collier County warehouse is open for partner agencies to pick up food items Tuesdays through Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The office is open Monday through Friday for anyone wishing to drop off food items or household supplies or wanting to tour the facility. Please contact Kelli King at 239-334-7007 ext. 202 to make an appointment.