2020 has proven to be an exceptionally difficult year. There have been no shortages of challenges, disruptions or bad news. At times, it’s been so many crises that we lose touch with the impacts we can make on the lives of our families, friends, and neighbors.
We may forget that there are folks who — due to the pandemic, storms, or economic challenges — are struggling to feed themselves or their families. According to the most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture data in 2019, prior to the added stresses of the pandemic, more than 30 million American adults and children were unable to acquire enough food to meet their needs or were uncertain where their next meal might come from.
Our UF/IFAS Extension Family Nutrition Program (FNP) works closely with schools and the community to provide education to families concerning eating healthy and shopping on a budget. They have also worked closely with local food pantries and food banks as volunteers to support the food needs of the community.
For several years, the UF/IFAS Peanut Butter Challenge has been held in counties in the Florida Panhandle, which have seen more than their fair share of devastating hurricane seasons in recent years. The weekslong event brings communities together, along with additional support from peanut industry partners, to collect the shelf-stable, nutritious spread for local food pantries.
As we participated here in Pinellas for the first time, we did not know how it would go, or if we would receive any donations with everything that was happening in the world.
The community came out, our staff and volunteers all came together to contribute! Over three weeks we collected 130 pounds of peanut butter plus other food stuffs. The great part is that the peanut butter gathered here in Pinellas County was donated to a local food bank in south St. Petersburg, which feeds hundreds of people a day. Hillary Miller, one of out FNP nutrition educators, has been working with this food bank since the beginning of the pandemic and has witnessed a continued increase in demand.
I would like to thank the GOW Food Pantry for their work with the community in providing meals for so many in such times. I want to thank our FNP staff for their dedication to ensuring the healthy food needs of the community are met. Another thank you goes to the UF/IFAS Pinellas County community for your willingness to contribute for the betterment of others.
I started this article with an idea that sometimes, with everything that is going on, we lose touch. We lose touch to the real-life impacts this pandemic is having on many of communiuty. I was wrong! Folks understand, they have stepped up and blew away my expectations of what and how much we could donate to the food bank.
With a very large THANK YOU from those you feed that are unable to say thank you, and from me for showing how amazing we are as a community, to provide a helping hand to those in need always and every time. This is a great example of the holiday spirit and what makes America great!
JP Gellermann, Director, UF/IFAS Extension Pinellas County