GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Peanut Butter Challenge, UF/IFAS Extension’s annual jar collection for local food pantries that launched in the Florida Panhandle in 2012, is again spreading statewide this year.
Unopened jars of peanut butter can be donated to local county Extension offices, in addition to some partner collection sites, from Oct. 1 through Nov. 24. At the end of the donation period, the jars are tallied to determine the bragging rights champion before the donations are delivered for those in need.
Fifty-three competitors will participate in the 2021 event, including a partnership with Florida A&M University (FAMU) Cooperative Extension. Find or contact your nearest donation site:
- Indian River
- Palm Beach
- Santa Rosa
The UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences will also be a peanut butter collection point, in addition to the UF/IFAS Extension Alachua County office. All donations to the college will be given to the Alan and Cathy Hitchcock Field & Fork Pantry, which assists members of the campus community facing food insecurity. Peanut butter for the college can be dropped off in McCarty Hall D (ground floor) on the University of Florida campus in Gainesville.
Coordinated by UF/IFAS Extension faculty, staff and volunteers, the Peanut Butter Challenge 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 last year 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 engaging local communities, the Peanut Butter Challenge has partnered with the Florida Peanut Producers Association (FPPA) and Florida Peanut Federation (FPF) 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.
“We are always impressed and touched by the communities’ grassroots support for this program,” said Libbie Johnson, agricultural agent for UF/IFAS Extension Escambia County and co-organizer of the Challenge since its inception. “The peanut industry is a great contributor to our state, but this event also shows how the nutritious food it produces can help our fellow community members who may be struggling.”
To stay up to date on your county’s progress, follow your local Extension office on social media.
–Kirsten Romaguera, UF/IFAS