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Peanut shortage, cost increase hurting food pantry donations

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Shelly Birkelo
Saturday, July 7, 2012

— Church-sponsored charity ECHO wants to spread the word about a sticky situation.

“ECHO shelves that once contained peanut butter and jelly are now empty,” said Cheryl Maveety, client advocate.

Peanut prices soared last fall because of a two-year drought in the southeastern United States, where most peanuts are grown, she said.

The resulting peanut butter cost increase pushed ECHO staff to get creative—even a bit nutty—about how to replenish bare shelves.

The result? A first-time peanut butter and jelly drive that kicked off in May and continues through August.

The goal is to collect 4,000 jars each of peanut butter and jelly.

“It was a good rough estimate of what we would need,’’ she said.

To date, the peanut butter drive has surpassed the halfway mark, but jelly donations are lagging behind, Maveety said.

The response “has been very good, but I’d say within the last couple weeks it’s trailed off a little bit. Donations are going out as fast as they are coming in,” she said.

Maveety explained the importance of peanut butter.

“It’s high in protein and everybody—the young and old—loves peanut butter. It’s a product that is nutritious and perfect for people living in homelessness because it doesn’t require refrigeration or cooking,’’ she said.

ECHO hasn’t received peanut butter as a government surplus commodity since December 2011. It used to be able to buy it at a reduced cost from Second Harvest, but the southern Wisconsin food bank based in Madison can’t get it anymore because of the shortage, Maveety said.

“That’s another reason we haven’t been able to keep it on the shelves here,’’ she said.

Need is greater during the summer, when children are home from school and families have to prepare two extra meals—breakfast and lunch—five days a week, Maveety said.

Anyone—individuals, families, organizations and businesses—are encouraged to join the drive by donating peanut butter and jelly or money to buy them, she said.

“We need a lot of businesses and individuals to kick in and help out,” Maveety said.

Last updated: 5:00 pm Tuesday, August 27, 2013

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