Greet the giver: Harry Chapin Food Bank

Harry Chapin works to combat starvation in five counties

Kate Schweikhardt waits to greet families as they line up for food during the weekly Lunchboxes of Love distribution at Manatee Elementary School on August 4, 2011. Schweikhardt, formerly a estate planner and real estate lawyer with her husband, decided to switch careers and is now the Collier County food coordinator for Harry Chapin Food Bank. 'There's nothing more humbling than starting a new job, especially at this stage in life,' Schweikhardt said. Greg Kahn/Staff

Photo by GREG KAHN

Kate Schweikhardt waits to greet families as they line up for food during the weekly Lunchboxes of Love distribution at Manatee Elementary School on August 4, 2011. Schweikhardt, formerly a estate planner and real estate lawyer with her husband, decided to switch careers and is now the Collier County food coordinator for Harry Chapin Food Bank. "There's nothing more humbling than starting a new job, especially at this stage in life," Schweikhardt said. Greg Kahn/Staff

Katie Schweikhardt is the Collier County Food Coordinator for Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida

The Harry Chapin Food Bank works to combat hunger in Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties through education and by working in a cooperative effort with affiliated agencies to procure and distribute food, equitably and without discrimination.

The Harry Chapin Food Bank works with 170 food relief agencies in Southwest Florida to help get food and other essentials to children and adults at risk of hunger. These agencies include soup kitchens, shelters, daycare centers, rehabilitation centers, emergency organizations, shelters, residential centers, missions, senior centers and youth centers.

The Harry Chapin Food Bank continues to expand in order to meet the needs of hungry people in Southwest Florida. The food bank provides more than 30,000 individuals each month with nutritious and balanced meals and groceries. These individuals include families, children, senior adults, homeless people, homebound individuals and the working poor.

1. If you could gather the community and tell them one thing about your charity, what would it be?

I would tell the community that the Harry Chapin Food Bank is a non-profit, charitable organization that distributes mostly donated food to a wide variety of agencies that in turn feed the hungry. The Harry Chapin Food Bank has all of Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Glades and Hendry counties in its service area. Approximately 14 million pounds of food were distributed from the Harry Chapin Food Bank last year.

2. What is unique about having a charity in Southwest Florida?

I believe that the great number of people who are not aware of the hunger problems in Southwest Florida is unique to this community. On a regular basis, people tell me that there are no bread lines so things must not be as bad as the Great Depression. However, the mobile pantry distributions routinely serve lines of 300 to 500 families. People wait in 95 degree heat, in the rain and in the cold and dark for food. I think Southwest Florida is also unique because it lacks the manufacturing resources of larger cities. This means that the Harry Chapin Food Bank cannot receive any excess from food manufacturers to distribute. While we have many generous farms and supermarkets, this lack of manufactured product is unique.

3. What surprises you the most about working with this charity?

I am amazed by the lack of knowledge the community has regarding hunger. As a Neapolitan, I had no idea how many hungry children were in Naples. Now, it is my job to feed the children and raise awareness of this problem. We have distributed nearly 750,000 pounds of nutritious food to families in need through the Lunch Boxes of Love mobile pantry distributions, made available by Naples Children & Education Foundation, founders of the Naples Winter Wine Festival.

4. Why did you choose to devote your time to this charity over others?

As a native of Naples, I did not know the severe problem of hunger among children. Once I learned that hunger was a real issue throughout Collier County, I had to devote myself to this cause.

5. How does working for your charity make you feel?

I am extremely grateful to the Harry Chapin Food Bank for hiring me as the Collier County Food Coordinator. I would also like to thank NCEF, the Naples Children & Education Foundation, founders of the Naples Winter Wine Festival, for creating the Lunch Boxes of Love initiative, which provides funding for a great majority of my work. When I go home at night, I know that some child is not going to bed hungry thanks to the food that NCEF and the bank provided. I am also grateful to the fantastic people who volunteer for the Harry Chapin Food Bank, especially those people who volunteer at the mobile pantry distributions. These are dedicated volunteers who just want to feed hungry families.

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