More food pick-up locations added to meet growing need in Southwest Florida

Posted at 7:07 PM, Apr 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-14 19:07:55-04

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Lee County Schools has nearly tripled their daily food donations since they started the grab-and-go pick up sites a few weeks ago.

Lauren Couchois, the director for food and nutrition services at the district said they’re noticing the growing need for food.

“The longer that the closures go on, and now with the new shelter-in-place that’s been ordered, we’re seeing more and more people come out to us,” she said.

But, they’re able to meet that growing need, she said.

“Our first day we did under 9,000 meals. And now we’re averaging closer to 22,000 - 23,000 meals a day,” she said.

They set up six more drive-thru locations Tuesday, and two more bus routes like the one on Evans Avenue and Park Windsor Dr. in Fort Myers.

Harry Chapin’s CEO said since there’s less food for grocery stores to donate, they now have to purchase food to give out, and that’s taking a toll on their budget.

“We’re going out and purchasing food every week, to the tune of about $150,000 a week,” he said.

LeBer said that’s way more than they would normally spend on food. but the growing need isn’t discouraging him or his volunteers from helping out. They set up 12 more drive-thru sites in addition to the 100 distributions centers they have year-round.

“We’ve been seeing 400-500 families in cars at every one of those distributions,” he said.

He said farmers are donating, but it doesn’t compare to what grocers were sharing when they weren’t stretched so thin. He says you can help out without clearing shelves.

“Don’t go to the grocery store to buy food and give to me. If you’re going to spend 20 bucks that way, just give me the 20 bucks, that way we won’t take anymore food out of the grocery store,” he said.

LeBer said they need more volunteers and masks to keep everyone safe.

Lee County Schools will open a new distribution bus route in Bonita Springs next week. Couchois said it’ll be based out of Bonita Springs Middle School and will travel to neighborhoods in the area.