GAINESVILLE — The Peanut Butter Challenge, an annual jar collection for local food pantries led by UF/IFAS Extension and Florida A&M University (FAMU) Cooperative Extension, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and is set to spread statewide again in the month of October.
Donors can give unopened, unexpired peanut butter jars of any size to nearby county Extension offices during business hours throughout the month. Many Extension offices also work with partnering organizations to collect donations; contact your local Extension office for locations and other details. After the friendly competition between counties ends Oct. 31, each collection is tallied and delivered to local food banks.
In the 2021 Peanut Butter Challenge, the second year the event occurred statewide and the first entry for FAMU, the total peanut butter collection topped 22 tons. The event often inspires inter-county competitions, as well, hosted within schools, 4-H clubs and other youth organizations, office buildings and the like.
“We are always touched by the communities’ enthusiastic effort to support those affected by food insecurity,” said Libbie Johnson, UF/IFAS Extension Santa Rosa County agriculture agent and co-organizer of the Challenge since its inception.
Started in the Florida Panhandle in 2012, the Peanut Butter Challenge has now grown to include counties throughout the entire state. Its timing perfectly coincides with harvesting of much of the state’s peanut crop – producers contributed $114 million to the state economy in 2020 – and it is distributed to local food banks ahead of a time of great need, the holiday season.
“The peanut industry is a vital piece of Florida’s economy, especially in our northern areas where they are grown,” said Emily Beach, UF/IFAS Extension Lafayette County agriculture and natural resources agent and co-organizer of the Challenge. “Through the Peanut Butter Challenge, we’re coming together to demonstrate the power of the small peanut in helping our communities, too.”
Peanut butter is a popular item in food pantries as it’s packed with nutrients, protein and flavor, and it has a long shelf life. With the increase in food insecurity as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Peanut Butter Challenge has become an impactful project to mitigate food insecurity statewide. The latest numbers from the United States Department of Agriculture show food insecurity affected roughly one in 10 Floridians in 2020.
In addition to the community donations, the Florida Peanut Producers Association (FPPA) and Florida Peanut Federation (FPF) have partnered with the project for years. These organizations are based in the northwest and northeast peanut-producing regions of the state and will again contribute to the totals distributed to food pantries in those regions.
For more information about drop-off locations and how to participate, visit sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/peanutbutter.
Extension Offices participating in the Peanut Butter Challenge:
• UF/IFAS Extension Okeechobee County, 458 U.S. 98 North, Hours Monday - Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., 863-763-6469, email@example.com
• UF/IFAS Extension Hendry County, 1085 Pratt Boulevard, LaBelle, Hours Monday - Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., 863-674-4092, firstname.lastname@example.org
• UF/IFAS Extension Glades County, 900 U.S. 27, Moore Haven, Hours Monday - Friday 8 a.m. - noon and 1 to 5 p.m., 863-946-0244, email@example.com
• UF/IFAS Extension Palm Beach County, 559 N Military Trail, West Palm Beach, Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., 561-233-1700, firstname.lastname@example.org
• UF/IFAS Extension Collier County, 14700 Immokalee Road, Naples, Monday - Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., 239-252-4800, email@example.com