March to a Million Meals: Need for food increasing in SWFL

Thanks to you, WINK News has raised enough money to pay for more than 300,000 meals for people in need as part of our March to a Million Meals campaign for the Harry Chapin Food Bank. Harry Chapin is holding two mobile food pantries Wednesday.

The lines to get food Tuesday were still just as long as they were when the pandemic first started. The need for food has grown tremendously over the last year, and so has the cost to provide it. Harry Chapin currently spends around $1 million per month to help families in need put food on the table—nearly triple the monthly cost prior to the pandemic.

One recently-retired couple yesterday says it’s been hard adjusting to life without an income since they moved to Southwest Florida, which is why they’ve relied on these food pantries throughout the pandemic.

“We’ve struggled, you know we’ve struggled, “said Elizabeth Mercado of Lehigh Acres. “But again, the blessing of God… this is something very awesome, and we thank each one of [the food pantry volunteers] every day for the type of work that they do for all families.”

Mercado says she also picks up food for her neighbors who need the help but can’t make it out to the pantries.

“There was one time that I picked up for somebody else, and he says ‘You know what? You prevented me from going to spend $100 that I had to struggle to get, in order to get this food,'” Mercado said.

David Bernstein, a Harry Chapin Food Bank volunteer for 18 months, says people from all walks of life have been coming through the line; some with nothing at all, others driving newer cars but recently jobless.

“Being fed is the first step to be able to look for a job, to be able to concentrate on your schoolwork, whatever it is,” Bernstein said. “You can’t do any of that stuff if you’re hungry, so solving the hunger is like a first-order term, and then there’s others that come behind that.”

You can volunteer your time like David Bernstein or you can donate money to help the WINK News team provide a million meals right here in SWFL.

Writer:Joey Pellegrino
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