The Harry Chapin Mobile Food Pantry will stop on Pine Island Wednesday, June 19, and Wednesday, July 10, at the Pine Island United Methodist Church to help families in need.
Beacon of H.O.P.E. Students Achieving Success Coordinator Rebecca Rose said the Harry Chapin Food Bank will distribute a week's worth of food to 375 families.
"It's completely essential if families are interested in participating, they have to call the Beacon and sign up," she said, which can be done by calling 239-283-5123.
It's important to reserve a spot, Rose said, because they have families traveling from Hendry, Glades and Collier counties in addition to Lee County for the Harry Chapin Mobile Food Pantry.
Although Rose advises families to call as soon as possible to secure a place for the Harry Chapin Mobile Food Pantry, they can call the Beacon until June 16 and leave a message with their name.
Last year's Mobile Food Pantry only made one stop on Pine Island with one truck. This year the Harry Chapin Mobile Food Pantry is making two stops with two refrigerated trucks.
Rose said due to a $43,000 grant from Wal-Mart to the Harry Chapin Food Bank, they are able to distribute more food to the area. Wal-Mart is also donating bags during the event on June 19.
Rose said one truck will have fresh meat and milk and the other will carry fresh fruits and vegetables, bread and canned goods. The food will be distributed from 1-3 p.m. on June 19.
Another important addition to the Mobile Food Pantry this year is the distribution of meals to seniors off island.
"If a person has a family member who is a senior in another county and cannot make it to the summer food program, they can still call and give their name," Rose said.
The distribution is being made through Senior Friendship.
"Harry Chapin really wants to reach the seniors and we are going to do that this year," Rose said.
Publix is another partnering business that is providing a helping hand during the mobile food pantry by offering shopping carts to assist families in their gathering of food.
Before the distribution of the food, a Health Fair, along with a free lunch, will take place from 12-1 p.m. at the Pine Island United Methodist Church. Rose encourages families to attend the Health Fair and grab a bite to eat before getting in line for the food distribution.
Some of the agencies taking part in the Health Fair include the United Way, Pine Island United Methodist Church, Children's Network of SW Florida, Wal-Mart and Salvation Army. Rose said there will be representatives from those agencies on the day of the program, as well as a few more.
She said the Health Fair will give people the opportunity to get information about diabetes, nutrition, Meals on Wheels on the island and in other counties, as well as receive case management from the Beacon of H.O.P.E. and information about the school backpack program that is coordinated through the Pine Island United Methodist Church.
Childcare will be available during the Health Fair and food distribution at the church. Rose said there will be kid friendly activities for the children.
"We will be able to keep them in the church, so the parents can go through the line to get their food," Rose said of the childcare.
In addition, a representative from the Early Learning Coalition will be among the agencies at the Health Fair to sign children up for VPK. The income-based program is available for all 4-year-olds who were born on or before Sept. 1 and live in Florida.
Rose said the Harry Chapin Mobile Food Pantry began due to statistics that show 63 percent of Lee County residents are food insecure. She said that means that 63 percent do not know where their next meal is going to come from.
That percentage, Rose said, is 36 percent above average.
The families on Pine Island are affected as well. She said 60 percent of the students at Pine Island Elementary School are on free or reduced lunch and receive food from the Pine Island United Methodist Church, as well as assistance through the summer lunch program.
"There is a critical need and that is why they and partnering agencies are coordinating together to try and reach as many families as they can to get them food during the summer," Rose said. "We couldn't be more excited about the summer food day."