There’s still time to get in on the Great Peanut Butter Challenge

By Jody Conrad | Special to the Press Gazette

Peanut harvest season means different things to different local people. To the folks at the UF/IFAS Santa Rosa Extension Office, it means one thing: the annual Great Peanut Butter Challenge.

It is a well known fact that peanut butter is highly nutritious and a great source of protein. To that end, the annual challenge collects peanut butter to be distributed through local food banks in time for the holidays.

Chris Verlinde, Mary Salinas, Ginny Hinton, and  Mary Mable show off the 2020 haul from the Great Peanut Butter Challenge.

The project, which took on new meaning last year because of the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, collected 1,706 of peanut butter for families in Santa Rosa County in 2020. The demand for food bank assistance was in part met by the generosity of both county residents contributing to this annual effort and the Florida Peanut Growers Association and Florida Peanut Federation.

“We are always excited by this community’s support for this program,” said Chris Verlinde, coordinator for the UF/IFAS Extension office. “Santa Rosa has won the Northwest District collection challenge several years in a row, and we’re hoping for a repeat.

“We’re still dealing with the economic impacts of COVID, and I just know the generous folks of this county will rise to the challenge,” she added.

Contributions in all shapes and sizes poured in to the Extension office in 2020.

Coordinated by the UF/IFAS Extension faculty, staff, and volunteers, the annual challenge has been collecting thousands of pounds of peanut butter in 16 Northwest Florida counties since 2012.

Businesses, civic organizations, and churches are encouraged to pick up a collection box from the Extension Office and challenge their participants to join in alleviating hunger in the local area.

The challenge runs from Oct. 1 to Nov. 24.

Local drop off sites include the Extension Office at 6263 Dogwood Drive, the Chamber of Commerce on Avalon, and the Santa Rosa County Administration Complex at 6495 Caroline Street.

Donations can also be dropped off at all Santa Rosa County libraries, the South Service Center in Gulf Breeze, the Santa Rosa County Visitor’s Center in Navarre, and the Extension office in Jay.

Annie Royston and Chris Verlinde show off some of the donations from local peanut growers that came in last year.

“We’re still looking for additional drop off sites,“ Verlinde said, “plus we’re hoping schools, churches, and businesses will up the ante by challenging each other.”