Peanut Butter and Jam Slam Food Drive to benefit food pantry shelves

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BENNINGTON — It's peanut butter and jelly time.

What's a better way to help food pantries during a slow donation season than with ingredients for a childhood staple meal?

The first ever Peanut Butter and Jam Slam Food Drive launches March 20 and runs until April 3, the day after National Peanut Butter and Jelly day.

Hunger Free Vermont, the Vermont Department of Health and United Ways of Bennington hope to collect 1,000 peanut butter jars to benefit BROC (Community Action in Southwestern Vermont), The Kitchen Cupboard and HIS Pantry.

"Hunger and food insecurity are complex and widespread problems that exist in every community," said Sheilah Printz, public health nutritionist at the Vermont Department of Health. "By working together, we can help ensure access to nutritious food for our most vulnerable populations. Life is richer when we look beyond ourselves. Thank you for supporting hunger relief in our community, letting others know about the growing issue of hunger in our region and being passionate about making a difference. No one, nowhere, at no time should go hungry."

More than a dozen community groups and organizations support the drive and volunteered to be a drop-off site. The group with the most collected jars will be crowned PB&JAM Slam Champion and get their name added to a respective prize plaque. Home Depot also donated a turkey fryer ($120 in value) to be raffled off to a participant.

Bring peanut butter jars to: The Bennington Bookshop, Carbone Auto Group, Advanced Eyecare, Price Chopper, Bennington Health & Rehab, Bennington Physical Therapy, Arlington Lions Club, Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, Easter Seals/Department for Children and Families, United Counseling Service, People's United Bank, Southern Vermont College, Community College of Vermont, Circle of Life, Southwestern Vermont Council on Aging, the Bennington Police Department, Hannaford, and Green Mountain RSVP.

"The months following the holidays and prior to summer meal programs can be especially taxing on our food pantries," said Kayla Becker, community impact & resource development coordinator for United Way. "I would note that donations are accepted at these local pantries outside the time frame, of course. This is just a fun food drive event."

Why peanut butter? It's nutritious and in high demand at food shelves, according to the event website. It also "offers vitamins, minerals, protein and calories, convenience, shelf stable, wide appeal, kids can prepare sandwiches themselves, good for the homeless or people living in hotels, [and it can] help fill the gap when summer meal programs end," Printz stated.

A typical 2 tablespoon serving of peanut butter can have 3.3 grams of saturated fat, 12.3 grams of unsaturated fat, 8 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber, according to Prevention.com and Harvard Health Publications. It also fills you up and keeps you feeling full longer.

With the peanut butter and jelly combination on whole grain bread, Printz noted the perfect mix of protein, B vitamins, iron and zinc.

Printz added that peanut butter and jelly will complement other nutritious food items available through the local pantries.

The drive accepts all kinds of peanut butter, but not homemade items.

"We just thought it was a good idea to be a part of something going on in the community," said Rhonda Hickey in admissions at Bennington Health & Rehab Center. "We service mostly seniors at our workplace but it's nice to be apart of something that will have a positive impact on other age groups."

The donations that will be collected will be distributed evenly between [the pantries]," said Maryann St. John, Bennington County supervisor for community services. "We're all very grateful because at this time of year we don't have a lot of food donations coming in and pb & j are a good staple — they're shelf stable and a good affordable source of protein for families and children."

St. John explained that the most donations are received from November to January during a "timeframe when people are thinking about helping others."

"After that it really tapers off. This will be coming at a good time for us," she said.

Visit unitedwaysvtbennington.org/pbjslam for a list of supporters, donation sites, and if you'd like to get involved.

Reach staff writer Makayla-Courtney McGeeney at 802-490-6471 or @MC_McGeeney.


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