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Choice Market fundraising to boost its pantry

January 15, 2020
By NATHAN MAYBERG ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Choice Market, the food pantry that serves those in need on Fort Myers Beach, is currently in the midst of its annual January fundraiser.

Craig Nelms, who runs the market as part of a team of volunteers, said the cost of purchasing the food items has risen due to a decrease in available food from Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida.

"It's been harder to get food," he said.

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Craig Nelms, who volunteers to run the food pantry at Choice Market, says there is a higher need for donations this year due to a shortage of food from Harry Chapin Food Bank.


Choice Market, which is next to Beach Baptist Church on Connecticut Avenue, is seeking to raise $8,000 to replenish the pantry. In addition to food items, Choice Market also provides personal hygiene items such as toothpaste and laundry detergent.

According to Nelms, the market has been buying more items at retail price whereas before it would get them at a great discount from the Harry Chapin Food Bank. He estimates that he is paying 60 percent more in retail than he used to.

The demand at the pantry has been creeping up, Nelms said. Choice Market feeds, on average, 1,083 people per month. Among the food items you will find at the pantry are canned soups, bananas, maccaroni, bread, cereal, meats, jelly, pickles, Gatorade, soda, salsa and ketchup.

Nelms, who has been running the pantry for the past 11 years, said Choice Market has been assisted through the generosity of the Fort Myers Beach Lions Club and the Fort Myers Beach Woman's Club. Nelms said Publix has been "a lifesaver" by providing bread and meats. The Midwest Food Bank in Fort Myers has also been a big contributor.

"People have this misconception that the only people who come here are homeless," Nelms said. He said about 6 percent of those who visit the weekly pantry are homeless. "The rest are families and individuals who are working. This helps them pay a bill."

Nelms said most are people working on the beach who aren't earning enough to fully support themselves or their families. He said the worst time of the year is during the summer when many workers see fewer hours at their jobs or lose work. Many of those who visit the pantry are transients who may be working here a short time before they are able to move on.

"I used to fret about this stuff," said Nelms about the market's need for food and donations but he doesn't anymore. "The stuff always seems to show up," he said. "Were all in this together, we just try tro take care of one another."

Choice Market operates under the umbrella of Beach Baptist Church, which is next door. Those wishing to donate to the market can make checks payable to Beach Baptist Church at 130 Connecticut Ave., Fort Myers Beach 33931. To signify that the donation is for the market, the market requests that the memo line reads "Choice Market Hungry Drive."



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