March to a Million Meals: Goal of a million meals surpassed, donations continue

Published: February 22, 2021 4:15 PM EST
Updated: February 22, 2021 4:39 PM EST

An incredible difference has been made in Southwest Florida.

On Monday, WINK News reached its goal of raising $400,000 that will go toward a million meals distributed in the community for those who need it.

The fundraising drive is for the month of February, but money continues to come in thanks to the community’s generosity.

The state of hunger in Southwest Florida is unprecedented. It could be a while before food insecurity disappears.

During the months of March, April and May, long lines at food pantries were signs of the times. What was hoped to be a brief snapshot, turned into a trend.

Tens of thousands of people were without work and struggling to feed their families.

Nearly a year later, the lines have gotten longer.

“I don’ think anybody anticipated that this was going to go on this long,” said Harry Chapin Food Bank CEO Richard LeBer. “We didn’t.”

“Naively, I think we thought by this part of the season, we’d be back to normal and we would recover, but obviously not. We are seeing as many people now as we’ve seen all along,” LeBer added.

LeBer predicts the need for food in Southwest Florida will last for the rest of the year.

“There’s just a lot of people who have accumulated past due rent, and other bills they have to pay,” LeBer said. “It’s going to be a while before people are back on an even keel and don’t need help anymore.”

As long as hunger people need help, the Harry Chapin Food Bank will, too.

“The last thing we want to happen is to have someone say, ‘I need help’ and for us to say, ‘we’re sorry we don’t have the money, we don’t have the resources, we don’t have the food to help you,'” LeBer said.

WINK News is so grateful for the generous support of donors who pushed us past our goal of $400,000.

It’s a momentous milestone, but not a stopping point.

“If we’re spending a million dollars a month for food, you can do that math,” LeBer said.

It’s a big problem, but it is one we can solve with each one of us doing our part.