UF/IFAS Extension Peanut Butter Challenge Tackles Hunger in the Panhandle
Samantha Grenrock, UF/IFAS Communications Service
Thanks to a partnership of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension and the Florida Peanut Producers Association, food pantries from Pensacola to Monticello will receive thousands of jars of donated peanut butter this December.
“The Peanut Butter Challenge not only raises awareness about the important contribution of north Florida’s peanut growers to the state peanut industry, but also helps provide a healthy, locally produced product to food-insecure families in northwest Florida,” said Libbie Johnson, agriculture agent for UF/IFAS Extension Escambia County and co-organizer of the Challenge.
Since 2012, the Peanut Butter Challenge has collected jars of peanut butter from residents, volunteer groups and businesses in 16 northwest Florida counties, Johnson said. This year, UF/IFAS Extension county offices received 3,236 jars of peanut butter.
In addition to these donations, the Florida Peanut Producers Association also contributes, supplying more than 3,000 jars each Challenge, Johnson said.
On Dec. 14, Johnson will lead a team of UF/IFAS Extension Escambia County faculty and staff as they distribute donated peanut butter to nearly 20 food pantries in the Florida Panhandle. Each year, Johnson and her team find themselves handing out more and more peanut butter, due in part to generous contributions from local growers.
Rodney and Mike Helton of Helton Brothers Farms have participated in the Challenge since the beginning. The two brothers believe it’s important to give back to one’s community.
This year, the Heltons have donated 10 pallets – 17,400 jars – of peanut butter, up from 6 pallets the previous year.
“At first, we made a small contribution to the Challenge, but then I got several nice thank you letters that made it clear how great the need was,” Rodney Helton explained. “Once I got to see firsthand the good it was doing, I wanted to do more.”