The Peanut Butter Challenge is an annual jar collection for local food pantries hosted by UF/IFAS Extension...
OKEECHOBEE — The Peanut Butter Challenge is an annual jar collection for local food pantries hosted by UF/IFAS Extension and Florida A&M University (FAMU) Cooperative Extension. Launched in the Florida Panhandle counties in 2012, it is again spreading statewide this year.
Unopened, unexpired peanut butter jars of any size can be donated to Okeechobee County Extension office, located at 458 U.S. 98 North, from Oct. 1-31. Follow along on social media, as well, at (4) UF IFAS Extension Okeechobee County 4-H | Facebook. Other Okeechobee County collection sites include WOKC – Okeechobee’s True Country located at 3936 SE 18th Terrace Okeechobee.
Coordinated by UF/IFAS Extension faculty, staff and volunteers, the competition among counties – for bragging rights only – was conceived as a way to feed hungry families ahead of the holidays in addition to promoting a Florida-grown crop. The peanut, which is produced mainly throughout the northern regions of the state, contributed $119 million to the state economy in 2019, according to the Florida Agricultural Statistics Service.
Peanut butter is an ever-popular item in food pantries for its nutrient density and shelf stability. The project took on new meaning in 2020 as it spread statewide for the first time as demand for food bank assistance had increased as an economic effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. 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.
In the 2020 Peanut Butter Challenge, the first year the event was conducted statewide, participating UF/IFAS Extension County offices received over 27,000 total pounds of peanut butter. Last year’s totals saw an increase by two-thirds, with over 45,000 pounds collected and FAMU Cooperative Extension joining in its first Challenge.
“This program grows each year through grassroots community support and simple word of mouth,” said Libbie Johnson, agricultural agent for UF/IFAS Extension Santa Rosa County and co-organizer of the Challenge since its inception. “I love that we had our partners at FAMU join in the friendly competition last year. It’s such a great way to highlight not only the importance of the crop to our agriculture industry, but also the nutritional value peanuts can offer our neighbors who are food-insecure.”
To join or partner with Okeechobee County’s collection this year, call 863-763-6469. More information about the Peanut Butter Challenge can be found at sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/peanutbutter.