The good folks at Beach Baptist Church on Fort Myers Beach are taking the bible exhortation to “feed the hungry” and running with it during the community’s shut down due to COVID-19.
In the Old Testament, Isaiah 58:10 tells Christians to:
Feed the hungry,
and help those in trouble.
Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
Pastor Shawn Critser, the church staff and volunteers have hosted a food bank, Choice Market, for years in cooperation with the Harry Chapin Food Bank, providing food choices for those unable to purchase enough food for their family. Since the COVID-19 pandemic caused widespread unemployment of area workers beginning about two weeks ago, they’ve expanded their food services.
On Tuesday, March 31, the Harry Chapin Food Bank brought one of their trucks to the church parking lot to distribute boxes of food and produce. Craig Nelms, Director of Choice Market spoke to the Sand Paper this week about the food assistance now available at Beach Baptist.
Monday through Friday from 9:00am – 12:30pm, the church distributes combined breakfast and lunch food bags for the Lee Schools feeding program. Any child under age 18 is eligible to obtain a food bag. They have a drive-thru set up at the front of the church for pick-up of food bags.
Tuesdays from 10am- 12noon, the Harry Chapin Food Bank mobile pantry will be in the Beach Baptist parking lot giving out 15 pound boxes of food, including protein and shelf stable items, plus some produce. This assistance is available to anyone in need of food in our community.
Each Sunday morning at 9am, Beach Baptist offers a hot breakfast to-go, open to all.
This Thursday morning, April 2, the church will offer a free to-go breakfast from 9 – 11am, provided by the church to anyone who needs a meal.
Every Thursday from 10am – 3pm, Choice Market is open, explained Nelms. The only Beach Baptist food program with any sort of residency requirement, Choice Market is limited to those living in the 33931 zip code area. Bring an ID or some mail with your name and address in the 33931 zip code area to participate. Choice Market usually allows patrons to select their own food, though that may be on hold due to COVID-19 guidelines. The need for the food pantry continues to grow each week.
“We’ve seen about a 20% increase each week lately in people coming to use the Choice Market,” said Nelms.
Additional food banks serve areas outside of 33931. The Gladiolus Food Pantry in the lime green building at 10511 Gladiolus Dr, Fort Myers, is open to all Lee County residents. The pantry is open each Wednesday from 11:30am – 1:30pm and 5 – 7pm. Learn more at gladiolusfoodpantry.org
The South Fort Myers Food Pantry, located behind the Cypress Lake Presbyterian Church at 8260 Cypress Lake Drive, Fort Myers, serves residents of the South Fort Myers area. They are open every Monday from 10:30am – 1pm and 5:15 – 8pm. Bring a recent utility bill or lease to show proof of current address. www.sfmfoodpantry.com/services Some food pantries are now providing drive-up service to meet social distancing guidelines.
Catholic Charities Food Bank at St. Leo Catholic Church, 28290 Beaumont Rd, Bonita Springs is open on Tuesdays from 10am – 12noon.
Additional Southwest Florida food bank information is available at harrychapinfoodbank.org
Nelms was pragmatic about the church’s role in providing a wide range of food for the Fort Myers Beach community’s hungry residents.
“It’s our community. We’ve got to take care of each other.” Nelms said. “We’ll get through this together.”