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Harry Chapin Food Bank helping its partner agencies obtain more food

July 25, 2018
By MEGHAN McCOY ( , Pine Island Eagle

As of the beginning of the month, the Harry Chapin Food Bank has eliminated their shared maintenance fees for their partner agencies, which includes Lehigh Community Services.

Harry Chapin Food Bank President and CEO Richard LeBer said when the Food Bank began 35 years ago, a co-op of local organizations helping others decided to chip money into a pot to get food for everyone to share, as well as share expenses of gas.

This past year, the Harry Chapin Food Bank distributed 24 million pounds of food to 170 of their partner agencies. All of those partner agencies have been chipping money into the pot since the beginning.

"We decided this year to eliminate what remained of it," he said.

That elimination is about $400,000 out of Harry Chapin Food Bank's $8 million annual budget.

"It's a significant amount of money. Many years ago it was almost all the money we raised," LeBer said.

With the elimination of shared maintenance fees, he hopes it will make it easier on all of their partner agencies, especially the smaller organizations.

"We have big organizations (such as) St. Vincent de Paul and many small organizations that are small pantries in a neighborhood church," he said. The small organizations do not have a large staff, or fundraisers, but rather the pastor allows the panty to get what is needed from the collection plate during mass. "I don't want that to limit how many they can help."

Lehigh Community Services Execu-tive Director Carolyn Peplow said the Harry Chapin Food Bank has really helped their agencies immensely.

Lehigh Community Services receives 90 percent of their food supply from the Harry Chapin Food Bank. The other 10 percent comes from the Post Office food drive, community donations and food drives.

Without having to pay the shared costs, she said it has allowed them to put that money towards purchasing other types of food for the pantry. Those foods include such items as jelly, spaghetti, rice, beans, canned green beans, corn, mixed vegetables and canned meats, all items purchased frequently.

"We are able to keep our pantry stocked even better than before," she said. "We do our best with what we've got. The more money we have to put in the pantry the better."

Currently, Peplow said their food pantry is in pretty good shape.

The Harry Chapin Food Bank has a long term goal of growing twice as big as they are now.

"We think that is how much food it is going to take to adequately feed everyone hungry in Southwest Florida," LeBer said, adding that eliminating the maintenance fee will hopefully "make it easier for all of our member organizations to step up and try to feed as many people as they can."

Partner agencies of the Harry Chapin Food Bank have to go through an application process establishing that they are providing food to feed the hungry. They have to be a registered nonprofit, have a proper facility to store food, which is checked to ensure the food is properly and safely handled.

In terms of how much food they receive is determined on how many people they serve.

"We try to figure out how many families an organization is serving and set limits based on that," LeBer said. "We share as fairly as we can."



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