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Guest Commentary: School is out and the snowbirds have flown, but hunger does not take a break

By Karen Durand - | Jun 23, 2021

Special to The Eagle

The season is over, and school is out, however, hunger among our full-time residents does not take a summer break. It is an especially difficult time for children when school meals are not available.

Did you know? There are several agencies right here on the island committed to doing everything in their power to help families with children and adults of all ages, who need a little extra help to avoid potential food insecurity. If you or someone you know needs food this summer, these agencies encourage you to take advantage of the following programs right here in our own community:

Pine Island Food Pantry – a non-denominational, 501c3 nonprofit, serves the Pine Island and greater Matlacha area year-around and is open Mondays and Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. It is located in the Life Center Building at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Church, 12175 Stringfellow Road, Bokeelia, FL 33922, 239-443-6561, https://pineislandfoodpantry.org/. Clients may pick up an entire food order twice per month. New clients are welcome. An ID is required at each visit to verify residency in their service area. Food amounts are distributed by family size and ages. Groceries include milk, eggs, sliced cheese, baked goods, canned goods, pasta, meat, toilet paper and bar soap. Other personal care grooming and hygiene products, as well as pet food and baby products are also frequently available.

The pantry does not deliver food, however, written permission for someone else to pick up for a client can be granted, or our partner F.I.S.H. may be able to provide a pickup and delivery option. Contact F.I.S.H. at 239-283-4442 to discuss.

Pine Island United Methodist Church, 5701 Pine Island Rd, Bokeelia, FL, 33922, has two programs this summer. Contact Beverly Brewer at 765-404-3835 for more information.

Harry Chapin Harry’s Helpings boxes will be handed out on Saturdays, June 6 through Aug. 27, from 9-11 a.m., in the parking lot behind the UMC church. Each box includes 15 to 20 pounds of a variety of non-perishable foods, such as canned vegetables and meat, cereal, spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, soups and stews, peanut butter, jelly, pasta, rice and beans.

Community Cooperative Mobile Pantry will be on hand with fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy and bread on the third Friday of each month in the UMC church parking lot from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Starting in June, they moved back to their traditional walkup model with full registration (i.e. park your car, no drive through.) An ID is required and everyone is encouraged to bring their own bags.

Beacon of Hope/United Way Agency on Pine Island, 5090 Doug Taylor Circle, St. James City, FL 33956, 239-283-5123, continues to offer a Feeding America Mobile Pantry each Saturday morning, from 9:30 – 11 a.m. in its parking lot. Food includes bread, sweets, fresh produce and sometimes frozen meat, frozen meals and dairy. It is a first-come, first-serve service. Beacon also offers a small emergency food pantry in their office which is available on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

All of these agencies are dedicated to providing groceries to residents on Pine Island and in Matlacha. We hope those in need will contact us for assistance, particularly over the summer when children are home from school. We give thanks to our partners, i.e. Winn-Dixie, all of the church and service organizations, Harry Chapin and everyone who donates. They are each trusted extensions of our mission to ensure, ‘No one goes to bed hungry’ on the island.”

Karen Durand is executive director of the Pine Island Food Pantry.