Panhandle Peanut Butter Challenge helps feed hungry

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Spread the word – or, in this case, the peanut butter! You can donate unopened jars of peanut butter to hungry Panhandle families from Oct. 1 through Nov. 22, through the Peanut Butter Challenge, a project coordinated by UF/IFAS Extension faculty and volunteers.

During this period, you may drop off jars at your UF/IFAS Extension county office. UF/IFAS Extension works with the Florida Peanut Producers Association to send the peanut butter to food pantries from Pensacola to Monticello.

Since 2012, the volunteers and UF/IFAS Extension faculty have collected thousands of jars of peanut butter from residents, volunteer groups and businesses in 16 northwest Florida counties. Last year, UF/IFAS Extension county offices received 3,236 jars of peanut butter, said Libbie Johnson, agricultural agent for UF/IFAS Extension Escambia County and co-organizer of the Challenge.

In addition to these donations, the Florida Peanut Producers Association also contributes, supplying more than 3,000 jars each Challenge, Johnson said.

Why peanut butter? In addition to feeding the hungry a nutrient-packed spread, peanuts are a major crop in the Panhandle. Growers produced 244,000 tons of peanuts in 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“The Peanut Butter Challenge not only raises awareness about the important contribution of North Florida’s peanut growers to the state peanut industry, but also helps provide a healthy, locally produced product to food-insecure families in northwest Florida,” said Johnson.