Last year’s University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Science Extension Peanut Butter Challenge was just getting started when Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle. As the communities dealt with the aftermath and UF/IFAS Extension offices became collection points for all varieties of donations, the annual peanut butter jar collection became less of a focus than the many items of need during recovery.
This year’s challenge, which ran from Oct. 1 through Nov. 27, saw a return to form, with a total of 14,042 pounds collected at UF/IFAS Extension county offices. The jars will be distributed to food pantries from Pensacola to Monticello, feeding hungry Panhandle families with the protein-packed spread. Peanut butter is a highly sought product at food pantries.
This year also expanded beyond the Panhandle, with UF/IFAS Extension Indian River County contributing 207 pounds through its collection. As a result, that county will also be able to distribute a portion of the donated jars.
The Florida Peanut Federation and the Florida Peanut Producers Association are also great supporters of the Peanut Butter Challenge, donating more than 11,300 jars to bring the grand collection total to nearly 21,000 jars of peanut butter that will make their way to hungry Florida families.
Since 2012, volunteers and UF/IFAS Extension faculty have collected thousands of jars of peanut butter from residents, volunteer groups and businesses in northwest Florida counties. Last year, even with recovery efforts from Hurricane Michael in full swing, UF/IFAS Extension county offices received 5,168 jars of peanut butter, said Libbie Johnson, agricultural agent for UF/IFAS Extension Escambia County and co-organizer of the Challenge.
“The Peanut Butter Challenge continues to raise awareness of the important contribution of North Florida’s peanut growers to the state peanut industry, and helps provide a healthy, locally produced product to Panhandle families who do not have easy access to nutritious food,” Johnson said. “Our communities come through year after year with tremendous responses to our calls for peanut butter donations, and we thank them. We are even more excited to add Indian River County to the Challenge this year and look forward to more Florida families benefiting from this food.”
In terms of pounds of peanut butter collected, leading the way in this year’s Challenge was Santa Rosa County with 2,131 pounds, followed by Okaloosa with 1,914 and Jefferson with 1,882.
Most notably, Jefferson County collected a disproportionate amount of peanut butter relative to its population – enough to give each resident two sandwiches’ worth of the spread, about 4 tablespoons apiece.
“It has been wonderful to see how involved our community has been with the Peanut Butter Challenge the last few years,” said Julianne Dinkel, a UF/IFAS Jefferson County family and consumer sciences agent and leader of the challenge in her county. “It’s a great way to help spread awareness of food insecurity and help distribute a healthy, locally produced food to our Jefferson County food banks.”
How much are the donations worth? Take challenge leader Santa Rosa County, for example. If the average retail price for a pound of peanut butter is $2.55 (in 2017, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics), then the value of the 2,131 pounds collected amounts to $5,434.05 worth of peanut butter.
Now that the jars have been collected, each of the participating counties will be receiving a proportionate match from the peanut commodity groups. UF/IFAS Extension agents will be busy delivering peanut butter to local food pantries in the next few weeks.
UF/IFAS contributed this article.