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Help Eat Local Lee put maps in kids’ backpacks

September 18, 2019
By MEGHAN BRADBURY ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Eat Local Lee is seeking the community's help in producing the Eat Local Lee Map, which will be placed in every backpack in Lee County.

Executive Director Courtney Fraser said the organization started out as the Institute for Culinary Awareness, Research and Education in 2012. She said her husband started the nonprofit to teach people how to cook with limited means.

The organization teamed up with the Veteran's Foundation and Goodwill Industries in Pine Manor and wrote a curriculum for those entering the culinary field at the entry level position. Fraser said an individual can get the basic understanding of skills, while receiving a certification to get a job at the back of the house.

"We graduated about 100 people and 70 percent are employed in the industry. It is self-sufficient," she said.

Almost three years ago the Lee County Visitors and Convention Bureau provided a grant to the organization, providing it with the opportunity to put out 20,000 Eat Local Lee County Farm Maps. Last year it received another grant, allowing the organization to continue to put out the map.

"This year the Visitor's and Convention Bureau is no longer paying for print. My project was mainly print. This year they decided to move entirely to funding projects that are digital. We do have a web and mobile app," Fraser said. "We were able to receive funding for two years and that was really nice and fabulous and we are so honored that we were able to have two years of grant funding."

The 20,000 maps, which highlights farms, farmers markets, roadside stands, U-pick, local honey producers, distilleries and breweries in Lee County, was distributed in all the hotels in Lee County.

"We have an incredible local food scene," Fraser said.

With the funding not coming through this year, Eat Local Lee teamed up with the UF/IFAS Family Services Agency after learning that it had an objective of compiling a listing of all the school gardens and community gardens in Lee County, as well as places where Fresh Bucks could be used.

"Our whole goal is to put community gardens on the map and get it out to school kids," she said. "We are striving to create more momentum at the school garden. Every school should have a garden, fresh food produced on site for the kids. That should be a given. We have a great growing season, our schools are in session when growing."

It is also important to provide information where Fresh Bucks could be used, which Fraser said is a relatively new program that is funded by the Department of Agriculture. She said the program helps those who receive food stamps with the ability to buy local produce for double the dollar.

"The consumer gets $20 worth of product and only pay $10 as long as it is locally grown produce," Fraser said. "There are only a few farmer markets that are receiving Fresh Bucks."

With the loss of funding, Fraser said they are looking for sponsors who are willing to help at a larger scale with the capacity of putting their logo on the material. Advertising is also available on the back of the map, as well as individual donations with a $5 or $10 donation.

"At this point I have a two-month campaign of September and October. It is tax-deductible because we are a 501c3. It's a great opportunity for local businesses to get in front of families," Fraser said. "If the community sees it as an important component, it will go. If not, we will just stick with what we have and keep the path out there and keep the online version."

To make a donation to the Go Fund Me campaign, visit

Fraser said they are looking to do a scavenger hunt of sorts to allow people to go out to the farms and farmers markets to further entice the community to visit the various locations.

In an effort to keep costs down, she said they are going to send maps home digitally through the Lee County School District. Fraser said they will also have a limited number of printed maps to those who do not have access to computers.

"We will send some maps home in backpacks. I am very hopeful that we will get the support that we need and have a map in every backpack whether digital or in print form," she said. "We are working with the Lee County Department of Health, the school district and UF/IFAS Family Services Agency."

Fraser said she hopes this will offer some food security to the most vulnerable population, so they have access to fresh, healthy food. She said every child that looses nutrition, looses IQ points.

"It keeps me up at night and gets me up in the morning," Fraser said. "It's bigger than me. Hopefully getting the map out there to the schools and getting it in the hands of people that need it the most will help the farmers and people at large. Our whole goal is to really try to promote our farms and markets and to get kids out and create relationships between producers and consumers to keep it local."

For more information, visit, or visit their social media page on Facebook and Instagram @EatLocalLee.



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