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Choice Market open every Thursday

October 10, 2018
By MEGHAN McCOY ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Choice Market opened at Beach Baptist Church 10 years ago to provide a helping hand to those in need.

"We are grateful for everyone who gives to the market. We couldn't do it without it. This is our community and we are supposed to take care of each other. We are able to do that through people giving to the Choice Market. We are helping each other out by doing that. You would be surprised by how far that goes," Beach Baptist Church Choice Market Director Craig Nelms said.

Choice Market is open every Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Beach Baptist Church, 130 Connecticut Street, located at the back of the campus near the playground. Those who are on food stamps are automatically qualified for the service.

"It's like a little grocery store here. We carry the bags for them, so they feel like they are out shopping for themselves," Nelms said. "They can do their own shopping. If they take the wrong item it is on them."

Publix donates breads and meats to the market, and they receive fresh produce from the Harry Chapin Food Bank. Once a month they also receive items from Midwest Distributors.

"Publix donates their extra meat to us now every Tuesday. That's really been a blessing. That has put us over the top with meats," Nelms said. "We get fresh produce from Harry Chapin. We never know what it will be, but we always have something."

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When individuals leave the Choice Market they walk away with frozen meats, refrigerated items, canned goods, breads and personal items. They also have such items as condiments, coffee, peanut butter and jelly, crackers, pastas and fruits.

"It depends on the week. Sometimes we can give them up to four or five days (of food) if we are lucky," he said, adding that on average they walk out of the market with eight bags.

Since July, he said they have seen a huge influx of people.

"I have never seen so many people," Nelms said, adding that they have been spending $600 on food weekly. "Some have been waiting for 40 minutes to get in here."

In a four-week period, he said they fed about 1,200 individuals.

"We have never had that," Nelms said. "We understand. Everything fluctuates on the beach. We know that."

He said he enjoys being the director because he is helping everybody.

"It's something I have not gotten tired of. The joy they get to come here and forget about things for about 20 minutes when they are walking through here," Nelms said is what he enjoys.

The personal relationships he is able to build with people has also been a bonus.

In addition to the market, Nelms said they are also a site for individuals to sign up for food stamps.

Those who would like to contribute to the Choice Market can do so by making a monetary donation to the Beach Baptist Church, or by dropping off nonperishable items.

"The one thing we do have a lot of is peanut butter," he said.



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