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Mobile food pantry to resume for veterans

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | Jan 6, 2021

PHOTO PROVIDED Community Cooperative Chief Development & Operations Officer Stefanie Edwards with the Bay Pines Director's Club award. The award was given to Community Cooperative in September for its food assistance program at the Lee County VA Clinic.


Monthly mobile food pantries will resume this January, throughout Lee County, as a drive-thru, providing veterans and their families a week’s worth of food.

The first pantry will be held from 10 a.m. to noon Wednesday, Jan. 6, at the VA Healthcare Center, 2489 Diplomat Parkway E. in Cape Coral.

“Nationwide 25 percent of active military families are getting help from food pantries, and hunger among the 12 million veterans over the age of 60 is sadly skyrocketing,” Community Cooperative CEO Tracey Galloway said in a prepared statement.

Community Cooperative Chief Development & Operations Officer Stefanie Edwards said they began their first veterans-only food pantry at the VA Clinic in Cape Coral in May 2017.

“They have been a food pantry partner of ours. When the pandemic started we had to stop. The whole world shut down and partnering with the VA was not an option,” she said.

This put things on a temporary hold until January.

“We are excited to have our partnership back with the Lee County VA Clinic. We are grateful to be back. We are happy to do it safely and social distanced as possible.”

Now the mobile food pantry will be a drive-thru option with Community Cooperative putting groceries in the trunks of vehicles.

“All of our clients receive about a week’s worth of food for a family of four, about 50 to 60 pounds of food,” Edwards said. “We really take care of our clients.”

The groceries includes shelf-stable food, meat and fresh produce.

In the past, before COVID-19, they served close to 500 veterans a month, Edwards said. The food pantry was held twice a month with families and veterans only able to attend one of them a month.

“We are only starting with once a month and seeing how it goes,” Edwards said, adding that they are anticipating seeing it busy. “We encourage anyone that does come, to come at posted times.”

Eight mobile food pantries were scheduled monthly before the pandemic feeding approximately 150 households. Community Cooperative offered drive-thru pantry locations, sometimes as many as 16 per month, during the pandemic where veterans were able to receive food. That number now is an average of 250-300 households at each site, with the maximum reaching 425 households.

Other locations and times include:

Cape Coral:

• 3-5 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 13, Hector Cafferata Elementary School, 250 Santa Barbara Blvd. N.

• 3-5 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28, Island Coast High School, 2125 De Navarra Parkway.

Pine Island:

• 10 a.m.-noon, Friday, Jan. 15, Pine Island United Methodist Church, 5701 Pine Island Rd.

North Fort Myers:

• 10 a.m.-noon, Friday, Jan. 8, North Fort Myers Regional Park, 2000 N. Recreation Park Way

• 10 a.m.-noon, Friday, Jan. 22, Good Shepherd Lutheran School, 4770 Orange Grove Blvd.

Lehigh Acres:

• 3-5 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 21, Lehigh Senior High School, 901 Gunnery Rd. N.

• 3-5 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 26, Veterans Park Lehigh Acres, 55 Homestead Rd., S.

In September, the VA honored Community Cooperative with the inaugural Bay Pines Director’s Club award for its food assistance program at the Lee County VA Clinic. More than 108,000 veterans in 10 counties in Central Southwest Florida are served within the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System, which is the fourth busiest VA healthcare system in the country.

For more information, visit www.CommunityCooperative.com, or call (239) 332-7687.