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tubs full of jarred peanut butter

Indian River County Extension Peanut Butter Challenge 2021

By Christine Kelly-Begazo, Indian River County Agricultural Extension Agent III,

a pick-up-truck load of peanut butter for the Peanut Butter Challenge

Cindy Sanders (blue shirt) handling peanut butter for the 2020 Peanut Butter Challenge. Photo by Tyler Jones

The Peanut Butter Challenge, UF/IFAS Extension’s annual jar collection for local food pantries that launched in the Florida Panhandle in 2012, is again spreading statewide this year. 

Unopened jars of peanut butter can be donated to the Indian River County Extension office, located at 1800 27th ST, County Administration Building B, and other locations (see list below) from October 1st through November 30th.  Follow along on social media as well at https://www.facebook.com/IRC4H.

Coordinated by UF/IFAS Extension faculty, staff and volunteers, the competition among counties- for bragging rights only- was conceived as a way to feed the hungry families ahead of the holidays in addition to promoting a Florida-grown crop.  The peanut, which is produced mainly throughout the northern regions of the state, contributed $119 million to the state economy in 2019, according to the Florida Agricultural Statistics Service.

Granny Smith Apples and a dollop of peanut butter on a snack plate

Sliced apples and peanut butter make a nutritious snack. Photo by Robert Annis

Peanut butter is an ever-popular item in food pantries for its nutrient density and shelf stability.   The project took on new meaning last year as demand for food bank assistance had increased as an economic effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The latest numbers from the United States Department of Agriculture show food insecurity affected roughly one in 10 Floridians in 2020.

“I always encourage shoppers to take advantage of BOGO’s [buy-one-get-one-free sales] at their local grocery stores,” said Christine Kelly-Begazo, UF/IFAS Indian River County Extension Director.  “This way, even cash strapped households can feel good about contributing toward the well-being of their community and helping out other needy families,” Ms. Kelly-Begazo added.

In addition to the community donations, the Florida Peanut Producers Association (FPPA) and Florida Peanut Federation (FPF) have partnered with the project for years.  These organizations are based in the northwest and northeast peanut producing regions of the state and will again contribute to the totals distributed to food pantries in those regions.

IRC Extension joined the Panhandle effort in 2018 and was the first county in south Florida to participate.  In the 2020 Peanut Butter Challenge, the first year the event was conducted statewide, UF/IFAS Extension county offices collected over 27,000 total pounds of peanut butter with Indian River County contributing over 275 pounds.  Last year’s collected peanut butter was donated to the Treasure Coast Food Bank.

“We are always impressed and touched by the communities’ grassroots support for this program,” said Libbie Johnson, agricultural agent for UF/IFAS Extension Escambia County and co-organizer of the Challenge since its inception.  “The peanut industry is a great contributor to our state, but this event also shows how the nutritious food it produces can help our fellow community member who may be struggling.”  To join or partner with Indian River County Extension’s collection efforts this year, call 772-226-4330, or drop off at several locations in Indian River county:

2 women standing behind peanut butter donation box

4-H Agent Kaitlyn McCarty & Program Assistant Olivia Zugay with IRC Bldg. A lobby drop off box for 2021 Peanut Butter Challenge. Photo by Violet Krochmalny

  • IRC Administration Building A lobby – 1801 27th ST., Vero Beach
  • IRC Administration Building B lobby – 1800 27th ST., Vero Beach
  • IRC Extension Office Building B, 2nd floor, Suite B2-201A, Vero Beach
    (4-H Clubs bring donations to the Extension Office)
  • North County Library – 1001 C.R. 512, Sebastian

More information on this year’s Peanut Butter Challenge and Florida peanuts: