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Feeding the hungry, one peanut butter and jelly sandwich at a time

PEANUT BUTTER JELLY TIME — Pictured are some of last year’s Peanut Butter and Jelly Drive’s donations. In 2012, the drive collected approximately more than 10,000 jars. Photo courtesy of Tina Sheley.
In three years, the Niagara County-born Peanut Butter and Jelly Drive has grown exponentially in donations and has expanded, now spanning Western New York.

Tina Sheley, the head coordinator of the drive, organizes volunteers to collect jars of peanut butter, jelly and Marshmallow Fluff™ for various food pantries. The drive is currently in its fourth year.

According to Sheley, the drive began with Niagara Court Officer Pete Robinson and a group of others that noticed there were not enough jars of peanut butter on local food pantry shelves. The initial drive was set for two weeks with a goal of 50 containers; the goal was exceeded, with a count of more than 500 jars.

“That’s a lot of peanut butter and jelly in two weeks’ time,” Sheley said. The donations were then redistributed to pantries, primarily in Lockport.

Following that year, Sheley said the goal was raised to 1,000 jars, and the donation time was extended to one month. By the end of the drive, more than 9,000 jars were accepted.

“We did something different this year,” Sheley said. “Every year we set a goal, and we far more than exceeded [that number].” She said that this year’s drive is motivated by the statistics for hunger in the United States, that the ratio of hungry citizens to citizens that are securely fed is 1–to–6.

“Our goal is to feed every one in six people,” Sheley said.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s report on “Household Food Security in the United States in 2012,” 5.7 percent of households (which equates to 7 million homes) had very low food security. Children were insecure in 10 percent of households, in 2012. According to the report, “These 3.9 million households were unable, at times during the year, to provide adequate, nutritious food for their children.”

Children are a significant factor behind the drive, Sheley said.

“We first want to feed the children that don’t have moms or dads to feed them,” she said. “We figured anyone, of any age, can make a sandwich of peanut butter and jelly for themselves ... it doesn’t require anything that’s dangerous [to cook].” She also said that this is a concept that the drive volunteers can grasp; they range from kindergarten-age to 100 years old.

“Everyone enjoys [the sandwich], except those that may have an allergy to peanuts,” Sheley said. The coordinators started to accept Marshmallow Fluff in 2011, to provide an alternative option for those with allergies.

Donations will be accepted until Dec. 7. Multiple collection sites are located in the following areas: Lockport; Middleport, Gasport and Medina; Barker and Somerset; Newfane, Olcott and Wright’s Corners; Lewiston, Ransomville and Niagara Falls; Tonawanda and Wheatfield; Grand Island; and Erie County.

Drop off donations locally at Southtowns locations including the Hamburg Town Hall, the Hamburg Police Department and Hamburg Central Schools. Other Erie County locations can be found in Orchard Park, Buffalo, West Seneca and Williamsville.

For a complete list of sites or, for more information, visit www.facebook.com/groups/peanutbutterandjellydrive/.
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