CLAY COUNTY – The UF/IFAS Clay County Extension Office is joining the ninth annual Peanut Butter Challenge that’s being celebrated throughout Florida. The challenge is their way of combatting …
CLAY COUNTY – The UF/IFAS Clay County Extension Office is joining the ninth annual Peanut Butter Challenge that’s being celebrated throughout Florida. The challenge is their way of combatting food insecurity in Florida while also paying homage to the peanut.
In 2012, UF/IFAS Extension faculty in the Panhandle devised an innovative way to feed hungry families in their counties. The Peanut Butter Challenge was born. A way for counties to earn bragging rights is by collecting as many jars of peanut butter as they can and turning it into their county offices.
The number of participating counties has only grown. As of 2020, 53 of 67 counties in Florida took part in the challenge. Offices received over twenty thousand jars of peanut butter, and in clay county alone, our Extension office fed more than 200 families.
Peanut butter might seem like a strange choice for a collection project. However, according to Annie Sheldon Wallau, the County Extension Director in Clay, it came from the peanut’s role in the state's agricultural community. In the northern regions of Florida especially, the peanut is one of the state’s most-produced crops. In 2019, peanuts alone contributed $119 million to the state economy.
Beyond the importance of the humble peanut in agriculture, peanut butter is almost universally beloved. Not only is it seen by many as a delicious snack, it’s also inexpensive, protein and nutrient-rich, and shelf-stable. This makes it a great option for those who are struggling with food insecurity.
Because of the COVID-19 impact on our state, the demand for food bank help increased drastically. The latest numbers from the United States Department of Agriculture show that food insecurity has affected one in ten Floridians. Those facing food insecurity need access to affordable, nutritious food.
When the pandemic hit grocery store shelves, it forced those already struggling to make ends meet into a situation no one expected. Beyond the challenge, the Clay County Extension office offers other programs to residents of Clay in need. They offer several workshops such as how to shop healthy on a budget and hands-on cooking classes.
Businesses or individuals are welcome to do their own collection efforts and then can drop off jars of peanut butter to any of the nine collection locations: the UF/IFAS Extension Clay County Office in Orange Park, the Clay County Farm Bureau on Henley, Farm Bureau Insurance in Orange Park, the Clay County Administration Building or any of Clay’s Libraries.
Collection efforts will run through Nov. 24.. The goal this year is to beat last year’s winner, Escambia County with 2,191 jars, and show Clay County cares.
This year, the Florida Peanut Producers Association and the Florida Peanut Federation are partnering with the UF/IFAS Extension Office. These organizations will contribute to food banks and food pantries in the northwest and northeast regions of Florida.
Community members experiencing food insecurity can reach out to the Clay office at (904) 284-6355 or Clay County Community and Social Services at (904) 284-6300 for more help.