FORT MYERS, FL – We’ve all done it…purchased canned food that we expected ourselves to eat, but then somehow or another, it found its way to the back of the pantry, never to be seen again…
At least, not until it’s months (or years…c’mon somebody) down the road during a cleanout, and well past the expiration.
KER-PLUNK! In the garbage, it goes.
Did you know that here in the United States we toss out between 30 and 40 percent of the AVAILABLE food supply?! It’s true, according to a March 15 press release from Lee County, Florida Government.
That same press release said that during a 2016 audit, it was determined that, “In Lee County, food waste accounts for 13%, or 70,000 tons, of the local waste stream.”
A big problem needs a bigger solution! Introducing…
“DONATED NOT WASTED”
Thankfully, the Lee County Waste system is finding a way to make sure food is going to fill hungry stomachs instead of filling our landfills.
For the third straight year, Lee County Solid Waste has come together with local partners for Donated not Wasted, a campaign to collect unopened, unused pantry items. The campaign is especially timely for Southwest Florida’s seasonal residents who may be headed back north for the spring and summer.
“The idea actually started over at our household chemical waste drop-off facility,” Molly Schweers, Communication Specialist for Lee County Solid Waste Department said. “We noticed as our snowbirds were leaving town, they were bringing us things that were not problematic, like their Windex and their dish soap. We thought, ‘these [people] are just clearing out their places. They want it to be empty when they leave. So what are they doing with the food?”
And so, what Schweers referred to as a “food rescue” was born.
Out of the pantry, and onto a plate!
“The two previous [Donated not Wasted] campaigns resulted in 6,000 pounds of food diverted from potential disposal – enough to provide 5,000 meals to hungry people.” – March 15 Lee County Government release.
Harry Chapin Food Bank, which has long been a great partner for WayFM’s PB&J drive, is one of several organizations that are making sure the food collected goes to good use. Meg Madzar, the organization’s food drive coordinator, said that Harry Chapin distributed “32.4 million pounds of food” in 2020. “Now, we are distributing nearly 1 million pounds a week and feeding a quarter of a million people a month.”
Donated not Wasted is taking place until April 5 at the drop-off locations that are listed below. More information can also be found by visiting www.leegov.com/solidwaste or calling (239) 533-8000.
“Some people from colder areas just came down here [during the pandemic] to shelter in place, so we had a feeling that there might be more food this year, and we were right,” Schweers said. “So far, we’re ahead of schedule with the [food] poundage collected.”
Drop off locations include:
- Estero Recreation Center, 9200 Corkscrew Palms Blvd., Estero, FL 33928
- North Fort Myers Recreation Center, 2000 North Recreation Park Way, North Fort Myers, FL 33903
- Veterans Park Recreation Center, 55 Homestead Road South, Lehigh Acres, FL 33936
- Wa-Ke Hatchee Recreation Center, 16760 Bass Road, Fort Myers, FL 33908
- Bonita Springs Public Library, 10560 Reynolds St., Bonita Springs, FL 34135
- Cape Coral-Lee County Public Library, 921 S.W. 39th Terrace, Cape Coral, FL 33914
- Captiva Memorial Library, 11560 Chapin Lane, Captiva, FL 33924
- Dunbar Jupiter Hammon Public Library, 3095 Blount St., Fort Myers, FL 33916
- East County Regional Library, 881 Gunnery Road, Lehigh Acres, FL 33971
- Fort Myers Regional Library, 2450 First St., Fort Myers, FL 33901
- Fort Myers Beach Public Library, 2755 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers Beach, FL 33931
- Johann Fust Community Library, 1040 W. 10th St., Boca Grande, FL 33921
- Lakes Regional Library, 15290 Bass Road, Fort Myers, FL 33919
- North Fort Myers Public Library, 2001 N. Tamiami Trail, North Fort Myers, FL 33903
- Northwest Regional Library, 519 Chiquita Blvd. North, Cape Coral, FL 33993
- Pine Island Public Library, 10701 Russell Road, Bokeelia, FL 33922
- Riverdale Branch Library, 2421 Buckingham Road, Fort Myers, FL 33905
- Sanibel Public Library, 770 Dunlop Road, Sanibel, FL 33957
- South County Regional Library, 21100 Three Oaks Parkway, Estero, FL 33928
- Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, 7751 Penzance Blvd., Fort Myers, FL 33966
- Topaz Court Solid Waste Annex, 6441 Topaz Court, Fort Myers, FL 33966