Destin Harvest organizers saw a need in the community for a large food pantry program. Today, the organization provides more than 1,000 pounds of food a week to feeding programs in Okaloosa and Walton counties.

For the past 10 years, Destin Harvest has been committed on delivering food donations to local organizations and outreach programs and with no plans on slowing down.

The non-profit organization delivers food donations from local grocery stores, restaurants and wholesalers directly to over 40 feeding programs in Okaloosa and Walton counties.

The idea behind Destin Harvest began to form in November 2006, when a  private beneficiary attended the annual Harbor Docks Thanksgiving dinner. The restaurant gives out a free Thanksgiving meal to anyone who walks in and all donations that day go to local charities. The organization was founded the following year.

"He saw first-hand how Northwest Florida needed to have a harvest program and a week later he called the owner of Harbor Docks saying he wanted to start the program," said Chris Leavenworth, the organization’s executive director.

Destin Harvest first started by delivering food to a handful of outreach programs, like churches that had small pantries.

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Leavenworth said there was a growing demand for this type of program and it's fundamental to the area because there will always be hunger.  

“We currently have three trucks that pick up food donations from Destin, Fort Walton Beach and Santa Rosa Beach,” Leavenworth said. “We deliver over 1,000 pounds of food a week.”

Besides Destin, Fort Walton Beach and Santa Rosa Beach, the organization also distributes to DeFuniak Springs and Crestview.

“With the help of a grant from Impact 100 (of Northwest Florida) and donations from local restaurants like Harbor Docks, we were able to set up six anchor agencies with freezers and refrigerators.” Leavenworth said. “They will be able to preserve and store food.”

The anchor agencies are feeding programs or organizations that are already getting food donations from Destin Harvest’s trucks.

“These agencies can work with other smaller programs that are outside of our coverage area.” he said.

Leavenworth said they need more local support and donations to help everyday operations at Destin Harvest.

“We really want to continue to grow and serve into Santa Rosa and Bay counties,” he said.

St. Andrews By-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Destin has an outreach program for the homeless and families in need. The church receives food deliveries every Wednesday.

“People are dependent on (the Destin Harvest food truck deliveries) and we have really grown thanks to them,” said Susan Black, the church’s volunteer coordinator.

On Thursdays, the church sorts out the fruits, vegetables, breads and meats and hands them out to those in need.

“Whatever the truck donates to us, we give it back to anyone who comes to our church in need of food,” Black said. “We aren’t only getting people from Destin, but from all over.”

Fort Walton Beach Seventh-Day Adventist Church also relies on the organization’s food donations. The church helps feed the community on Wednesdays and Fridays.

“On Fridays, we give food away to community members who really need it, especially to our veterans” said Lydia Barton, the church’s community service director.

Barton said they even get calls from people who have nothing but water in their refrigerators.

“This is a wonderful organization. … I don’t know how many people would be starving if it wasn't for them,” she said.

Want to support or donate to Destin Harvest? Visit Destinharvest.org.