Fort Myers Midwest Food Bank provides residents with needed food

Fort Myers Midwest Food Bank provides residents with needed food

Putting food on the table is not an option for everyone in Lee County.

According to the Naples Daily News, 12 percent, or about 122,000 people, including 38,800 children (20.5 percent), are food insecure. The Naples Daily News used statistics from a March Feeding America report.

While there are federally- and state-funded programs to assist those who are food insecure, national and local organizations, such as the Midwest Food Bank, come up with creative ways to make sure that food can be on everyone’s tables.

Founded in Central Illinois in 2003, the Midwest Food Bank expanded into Florida in 2014.

When Founder and President David Kieser brought his team to Florida for some much-needed time away from the Midwest cold, they realized that there was a need for food in Southern Florida.

While churches and non-profit organizations make food, both perishable and non-perishable, available to residents, their supply, when solely backed by food drive or monetary donations, often runs short or runs dry.

Working directly with manufacturers, farmers and packaging companies, Midwest Food Bank began to send a semi-truck of food to Fort Myers once a month.

In the beginning, the semi-truck helped a few food distribution agencies. Then as word spread, the operation grew, and a warehouse in Fort Myers was established to serve 120 agencies in 29 counties across Florida, Southern Mississippi and Alabama.

“We don’t want to necessarily be considered a warehouse, although that’s what we call ourselves,” MWFB Executive Director of Florida Karl Steidinger said. “We’re a distribution center.
“We want to make sure it goes off to the community. So while the warehouse is generally full, it’s not our goal to just hoard food.”

Sixteen years later, with eight locations in the United States and two international locations, the Midwest Food Bank has grown beyond Kieser’s wildest imagination.

“It’s growing by leaps and bounds,” Steidinger said.

Serving as the “middleman,” Midwest Food Bank builds relationships with large food manufacturers or storage facilities to take possession of their overstock.

“The number that we most commonly use is 40 percent of the food supply in the United States is wasted,” Steidinger said.

Manufacturers sit on and discard product for a variety of reasons. The product could be too close to an expiration date, it may not meet the specifications of a grocery store or it may be mislabeled.

“That’s what we’re targeting,” Steidinger said. “We would like to take that product, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it.”

Three weeks ago, Midwest Food Bank took a semi-truck to Southern Georgia to pick up watermelons.

“They were beautiful, but they were too large,” Steidinger said.

“So they were fresh out of the field. We went straight to the farm and loaded a semi with watermelons.

“And we blessed the community with them.”

Midwest Food Bank assumes the responsibility of the product, shouldering the cost to take the product out of the manufacturer’s facility and transporting it to their facility where they process it.

“So in the bargain, the food manufacturer gets a tax write-off for the full value of the food, we get free food and we’ve salvaged or rescued food that would have otherwise went to the landfill. And they’ve actually saved money in that they didn’t have to transport it to the landfill and pay a fee.

“So, it’s a win-win.”

On the other side of the bargain are the food pantries, soup kitchens, churches and other non-profits who receive the free product to distribute to those in need without cost.

“They have to promise us in writing, they sign a document every time they pick up, that they’ll give the food away for free,” Steidinger said.

“There’s no cost associated with the food going out our doors. We have them promise us that they’ll do the same, so they don’t profit off of that food in any way.”

Using this food collection and distribution method, the Midwest Food Bank is able to provide about 40 to 50 percent of the food on the food pantry shelves.

Other food usually comes from food drives, monetary donations or the organization’s relationships with grocery stores.

Collecting, processing and distributing 10 to 15 semi-truck loads of food does come at a cost to the Midwest Food Bank, though. Aside from the monetary needs to get the food and bring it to their location, Midwest Food Bank runs on the sweat of volunteers.

Last year, 900 volunteers put in 1,700 hours of time doing tasks such as running a forklift, working a fundraiser, cooking meals and cleaning the warehouse, among other tasks.

“At every level of this organization, there are volunteers involved,” Steidinger said. “And it’s important for us to do what we do.

“It’s important that we have volunteer support, we couldn’t do what we do without volunteer support.”

Monetary support is also something that helps operations run.

“I think people automatically think I have to write $1,000 check or a $10,000 check or a $50,000 check. That’s simply not true,” Steidinger said.

Through the food bank’s Partner Program, any donation accounts for more than the dollar amount.

“Some people give us $5 a week, other people give us $10 a month, you know, whatever they can do. Others give us $100 a month, some $500 a month.

“That really sustains us and helps us continue sustainable growth. We say yes, without that, we would, we would be struggling.”

But because of the way the operation runs, $5 isn’t just $5.

“Because we use the volunteer support, and because of the way that we get all our food donated, we’re able to turn every dollar someone gives us into $33 of food that actually goes into the community,” Steidinger said.

“People can say, well, I’m not doing that much. But if you gave Midwest Food Bank $10, you’ve actually given someone $330 in food.”

It’s a philosophy that Kieser has used from the very beginning.

“David has said to me more than once, ‘When someone gives you $1, that is $1 God gave them. And so be a good steward. Make sure you make that dollar go as far as you possibly can,’ “Steidinger said.

Steidinger said that the Midwest Food Bank would also like to be included in people’s prayers.

“We are a faith-based organization. And we want to do this to the glory of God,” he said.

“That’s our motivation behind what we do, that we would support the community, but that others would see the love of Christ through what we do.”

*Lee County Plumbing and Well Service is a supporter of the Midwest Food Bank.

Don’t Panic: What To Do In a Home Plumbing Emergency in Lee County, Florida

Don’t Panic: What To Do In a Home Plumbing Emergency in Lee County, Florida

The bad thing about hplumbing emergencies is that they can happen at any time. The good thing about being the premier 24/7 emergency plumber in the Fort Myers area is that we’re available to respond at any time. Lee County Plumbing & Well Service is at your service, just a phone call away.

But practically speaking, some plumbing emergencies can’t wait for the professionals to arrive. Pipes burst open and water gushes out, piling up in an awful mini-flood. Faucets drip constantly like something from an Edgar Allen Poe story. Maybe you smell unexplained gas. Maybe the toilet backs up. These are significant plumbing emergencies requiring prompt response.

The important thing is there are solutions. In this blog post we provide instructions on the immediate steps you should take whenever a plumbing emergency strikes. It’s also a good idea to clue in other responsible people, so they can take the right action too.

Major Emergency Plumbing Problems and First-Response Solutions:

Spoiler Alert: The best response to all of these problems, once any necessary safety measures have been taken, is to call Lee County Plumbing & Well Service at 239-464-6150 anywhere in Southwest Florida.

Clogged, blocked or leaking toilet

When that water (and anything in it, ahem) starts to rise, it doesn’t matter how calmly we say not to panic. It’s only natural – after all, that’s supposed to be a one-way deal. No one wants to see that deal broken.

First, know the location of the valve which controls the toilet’s water supply. It’s usually on the floor near the commode. Turn it to the right to close the valve and stop the flow. (If this is not doable, turn off the house’s main water-supply valve, typically located in the basement.)

Then, plunge the blockage loose – unless the clog is caused by a toy or tissue mass or something not meant for the toilet drain, in which case attempt to remove the offending block with the hook of a coat hanger.

Burst pipe

Notice a sudden curvature in your ceiling that you know wasn’t there before? Or maybe the hardwood floor is bowing up in a most unfloorlike fashion. Or perhaps a basement pipe has burst open and water is pouring onto the linoleum.

First, turn off the main water-supply valve. (This is when it’s good to already know the location of your home’s water valves.) Then, drain the system (and prevent more water from leaking or pouring out) by opening up all the cold-water taps in the house, including sinks and bathtubs, and even flush the toilets. The faster you can drain the home’s water supply, the less water will pile up and cause further flood damage.

Remember that electricity and water mix only too well, but you don’t mix very well with them, so turn off power supplies and electronic devices when in or near standing water or flooded rooms.

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Constantly leaking faucet or backed-up sink

First, turn off (and leave off) the garbage disposal switch, if your kitchen sink is equipped with one. It’s even smarter to turn off the power to the kitchen from the main switchbox, to prevent an accidental turn of the blades. (Needless to say, it’s smartest to never ever ever put your hands in the garbage disposal at all.)

Insert a long, ideally wooden spoon into the sink’s drain hole to lift up and remove the blockage. Attempt to pull it up; pushing it down into the pipe could result in merely relocating the blockage.

Once unclogged, rinse the disposal with hot water, turn the power back on and see if the backup has been resolved.

Gas smell

Natural gas does not naturally smell, but an additive makes it detectable to our noses, which is good because we don’t want our noses to detect it for long. If you or anyone else in the building or home smells that rotten-egg gas odor from anywhere inside, take these precautions:

  • Open doors and windows to allow air to flow through the rooms
  • Turn off the main gas-supply valve(s), usually located in the basement of a home or in the utility rooms of large commercial buildings
  • Do not use a lighter, match or any open flame for any reason
  • Do not use electrical appliances (in case of electrostatic discharge)
  • If the gas scent persists, leave the premises
  • Regardless of duration of gas smell, contact a local professional plumber

We feel fortunate to serve Lee County, Charlotte, Hendry and Collier and plenty of great folks in Florida since establishing our full-service plumbing company in 2000. We’ve been lucky to solve many different plumbing problems at a variety of building types – some needing standard solutions, some innovative.

Lee County Plumbing & Well Service has performed plumbing work for year-round residents, real estate agents (residential and commercial), office parks, motels and hotels, commercial property managers, Airbnb leases, property flippers, snowbirds and spring training visitors.

We live in a beautiful part of the planet that treats us all year to warm temps and cleansing thundershowers. There’s a uniqueness to maintaining a Florida home or property that the rest of the country doesn’t have to contend with – sand traps, pool water, salamanders. Sometimes emergencies and disasters strike even the most prepared homeowner.

When home plumbing emergencies happen, first protect yourself, your family and pets, and as much as possible your belongings. Then please call the top professional plumbers in Southwest Florida, Lee County Plumbing & Well Service LLC: Telephone 239-464-6150; fax 239-321-5132; or send us an email.

You’ll get a prompt courteous response, and one of our mobile units will roll to the location of your plumbing or well-water emergency ASAP for the fastest, most expedited fix, repairing your system back to a state of good use.

Clean Those Drains: 4 Ways Clean Sewer Lines Make You Richer and Less Stressed

Clean Those Drains: 4 Ways Clean Sewer Lines Make You Richer and Less Stressed

Running water is one of the greatest inventions of humankind – and we’re not saying that because we’re the top full-service plumbers here in Fort Myers.  Keeping the water flowing in Southwest Florida is what we do for a living.


Just think about it: You get to live in a home and work in an office where the plumbing system – connecting every kitchen sink, bathroom toilet, shower, tub, dishwasher and washing machine in the entire building – carries away all your unwanted waste and used water, day after night after day. It’s a modern miracle we take for granted – though we really shouldn’t.


As miraculous as that plumbing system is, all those pipes, valves, drains, and pumps – like any technology – can and will deteriorate if not regularly maintained and monitored for upgrades and repairs.


To keep the plumbing running smoothly in your home- whether it’s on the lake in Immokalee or on the bay in Port Charlotte-one of the best, most cost-effective, easiest ways to help yourself as a homeowner, property manager or landlord is to get yourself some clean sewer lines, at minimum once per year.


Here’s why:


Avoid slow draining, clogs, bursts and leakages; prevent buildup of corrosive materials.


Clean sewer lines don’t stay clean. Many substances go down your drain and pretty much stay there. Soap, food particles, hair care lotions, grease, sediment, even organics like skin, hair and fur can accumulate in your home’s drains and pipes, causing restricted water flow through the drain. Eventually the pipe could seal, leading to a clog…which leads to water pooling up…which leads to pipe erosion and broken pipes. A thorough professional cleaning greatly reduces the likelihood of such damage.


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Avoid damage to drains and connective valves; prevent buildup of sand.


In our corner of Florida, salty air and sandy surfaces are a reality of life. We enjoy hundreds of miles of coastline and sometimes sand (despite our best efforts) gets into our homes and our plumbing systems. If you reside near a beach in Sanibel, Pine or Naples, you have billions of tiny reasons to clean sewer lines and drains.


Avoid hard water; ensure the water you drink, bathe in and cook with is as clean as possible.


Consider the route your water takes to reach your faucet, spigot or tap. Whether your supply is municipal or well, the pipes, valves and drains in your home are the last system with which your water comes into contact. With drain cleaning and water softening (reverse-osmosis purification treatments), we’ll help you keep everything clean.


Be mindful of what goes down the drain – not everything “disposable” really is!


Ever throw a sanitary wipe or hygiene product down the toilet? It may swirl away but it’s hardly gone. Those often collect in the hooks and elbows of your plumbing pipes, leading to potential water leaks and bursts. If you think you have anything like that in there, it would be best to get it cleaned out.


Also, many tourists and some residents here in Lee County and around Southwestern Florida use sunscreen with micro-beads. We cannot stress enough how much trouble these are for your plumbing system, not to mention your local environment in general.


Since Lee County Plumbing & Well Service has been serving Lee, Hendry, Charlotte and Collier counties here in Florida (our full-service plumbing contractor company was founded in 2000) we’ve been called for many dire emergency plumbing situations where a little minor maintenance would have prevented a lot of major replacements. Cleaning your plumbing system’s drains is always Recommendation No. 1.


We perform a lot of re-pipe work here in Southwest Florida, sometimes for those older homes around Fort Myers, sometimes for fairly new construction in Cape Coral, sometimes for commercial tourist spots out on Pine and Sanibel. A lot of that repiping wouldn’t be necessary with a plumbing pro on a regular maintenance schedule.


A little prevention goes a long way, and the best way for great money-saving preventive maintenance is to call us, Lee County Plumbing & Well Service, at 239-464-6150 anywhere in Southwest Florida. Let us take care of the little things like regular drain cleaning maintenance, so it’s less likely we’ll need to talk about big things like re-piping and replacements.

Little Changes, Big Savings: How to Save on your Water Bill with My Top 6 Plumbing Tips

Little Changes, Big Savings: How to Save on your Water Bill with My Top 6 Plumbing Tips

We all know the movie “The Money Pit.” Shelley Long and Tom Hanks are hapless first-time homeowners who go more than a little crazy trying to keep their lovely country home from crumbling to the ground.


One of our favorite scenes has to be when the bathtub crashes through the floor. We know that laugh Tom Hanks made. In the plumbing business here in Southwest Florida for almost 20 years, we definitely know that exasperated laugh.


Your home is very likely the most important investment you will ever make. Taking care of it is part of the ongoing costs of investment – and you are rewarded with things like equity, resale value and a great home for your family.


But you still need ways to save money. You can’t break the bank, going cash-poor to remain house-rich. So, from your professional plumbers here in Fort Myers and Cape Coral, here are some smart home plumbing tips to avoid draining your bank account:


Gallons are dollars.


Use water conservatively. Essentially, when you need water, turn it on; when you don’t, turn it off. Do not allow the water to pour out for every moment that you’re brushing your teeth or washing the dishes. Also, look into investing in water-efficient toilets and shower heads.


A water-saving shower head can save about five gallons in a minute (and you still get clean).


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Use Energy Star-rated washing machines and dishwashers.


Look for the familiar blue insignia on your residential or commercial appliances. According to, a new dishwasher with an Energy Star certification will save an average of 3,870 gallons of water during its lifetime.


Have your system’s pipes inspected to ensure they can handle our part of Florida.


Codes for installation of sewer, septic and well piping are very strict here in Lee County and across South Florida. Around here we need to deal with sandy soil that shifts pipes and salty air that corrodes metal.


To avoid an unbelievably costly re-piping catastrophe, get your whole indoor and outdoor plumbing system on a regular maintenance schedule.


Be flexible! Use flex tubing instead of copper.


One of the latest advancements in plumbing technology is the material from which pipes are made. Considering Fort Myers was the winter escape of both Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, it’s fitting that this area should embrace technological improvements – especially when they can save money over the life of your plumbing system, versus standard copper piping. At Lee County Plumbing & Well Service, we specialize in Viega Pex Press plumbing systems.


Planning a major renovation or build-out project? Plan ahead.


Being in the plumbing industry since 2000, we’ve been fortunate to be part of large-scale construction projects and remodels from Estero to Lehigh Acres. New outdoor showers, new pierside spigots, new guest houses. The money-saving tip for remodelers: Call us early. We’ll plan the installation of the various plumbing components on the best schedule for your overall project, keeping with your timeline and your budget.


It’s cheaper to maintain than it is to replace – usually much cheaper.


A pound of prevention is worth – in the case of many plumbing problems – thousands of dollars’ worth of cure. Let’s clean those drains before it causes a backup. Let’s solve that low-pressure problem before it becomes a clogged pipe. Let’s look into that foul smell or suspicious noise before it becomes a plumbing emergency – and your savings go down the drain.


Every building’s plumbing circumstances are unique, so the best ways you can save money could be different from high-density areas like LaBelle and pristine neighborhoods around Bonita Springs. Let’s see what tips are best for your Southwest Florida home or property.


Call us at 239-464-6150 when you need service – actually, better yet, call Lee County Plumbing & Well Service LLC long before you need service.