Over 45,000 pounds of peanut butter have now been sent out to local food banks statewide following the 2021 Peanut Butter Challenge, an effort led by the Cooperative Extension offices of UF/IFAS and Florida A&M University (FAMU) in partnership with local organizations.
The annual jar collection began in the Florida Panhandle counties in 2012 as a way to combat food insecurity with a shelf-stable product while also highlighting the peanut’s Florida-grown roots. The effort expanded statewide in 2020 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, when an estimated one in 10 Floridians faced food insecurity, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
Participating offices rely on grassroots community support to collect jars of peanut butter from Oct. 1 until the day before Thanksgiving, after which they’re counted, bragging rights are awarded, and the jars are delivered locally.
By the numbers:
- 45,157 total poundage collected
- 35,109 total jars collected
This year’s Peanut Butter Challenge community collection alone can make over 700,000 peanut butter sandwiches. Fifty-five competitors accepted the 2021 challenge, including FAMU’s first entry and a UF campus collection for the campus food bank, the Alan and Cathy Hitchcock Field & Fork Pantry.
Many of the newcomers seemed to hit their stride, as totals increased 18,000 pounds over the first statewide competition. The top overall community collector of 2021 earned the title in only its second attempt: Levy County amassed 6,954 jars for a whopping 7,120 pounds.
“Our success this year is all thanks to our community, from the local school collections to an incredible donation from the Levy County Farm Bureau, Williston Peanut and Peanut Proud,” said Kristen Brault, who coordinated the UF/IFAS Extension Levy County collection. “We grow and process a lot of peanuts here in Levy County, and it’s rewarding to be able to give these jars right back to food banks, big and small, across our county.”
Madison County brought in an impressive haul, as well, at 6,807 pounds; other top performers include regional champions Jefferson County (Northwest, 2,237 pounds), Hardee County (Southwest, 2,000 pounds), Hernando County (Central, 1,731 pounds) and Indian River County (Southeast, 1,185 pounds).
In addition to engaging local communities, the Peanut Butter Challenge has partnered with the Florida Peanut Producers Association (FPPA) and Florida Peanut Federation (FPF) for years. These organizations, based in the northwest and northeast peanut-producing regions of the state, also contribute pallets of the nutrient-dense spread to the totals distributed to food pantries in those regions. Peanut production contributed $119 million to the state economy in 2019, according to the Florida Agricultural Statistics Service.
“The Peanut Butter Challenge makes such a simple ask—donating a jar of peanut butter—but our communities always respond in a big way,” said Libbie Johnson, UF/IFAS Extension Escambia County agriculture agent and co-organizer of the Challenge since its inception. “It’s exciting to be able to share so much of this nutritious, Florida-grown product with our neighbors who may be struggling. Thank you to everyone who donated a jar to the cause this year.”