Peanut Butter Challenge back on track after Hurricane Michael recovery

Kirsten Romaguera
More than 14,000 pounds of peanut butter was collected during this year’s UF/IFAS Extension Peanut Butter Challenge. [FILE PHOTO]

Last year’s UF/IFAS 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.

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.

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.

How much are the donations worth? 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 in Santa Rosa County 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.