Jun 8, 2020Millions of pounds of produce donated by Florida farmers during harvest
When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Florida farmers had begun harvesting what promised to be a bumper crop. The food service industry swiftly shut down, and the fresh fruit and vegetables typically grown for cruise ships, restaurants, schools and other destinations had nowhere to go. With a disruption that no one could have predicted, growers had a new challenge this season: Getting massive volumes of fresh produce distributed to others before it went bad.
Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association grower members have always been strong partners of Feeding Florida and its statewide network of food banks. But timing was of the essence for such a large amount of food. There are limits on the quantity of fresh produce food banks can accept because of cold storage capacity for perishable products. Florida farmers and feeding programs had to act fast, and with a limited number of resources during the stay-at-home order, they had to find new ways to move product.
During the remainder of the season, growers worked closely with their local food banks to deploy the necessary resources to move food and supplies quickly and efficiently throughout the state to families in need. They partnered with distributors and local organizations to drop off products. At the same time, many farms gave consumers an opportunity to purchase directly from the farm.
Within days, for example, city organizations partnered directly with local restaurants who had been hurt by closures along with 44 grower-members of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative, United States Sugar Corporation and Florida Crystals, who were underwriting the meals and operating costs of the program to ensure residents could have hot meals during the state of emergency.
In other cases, growers put together boxes of mixed fruits and vegetables and donated them to churches, hospitals, children’s homes, senior centers, fire stations, food banks and police stations. Many donated directly to charitable organizations in their community and to the frontline workers who continue to work tirelessly during the pandemic. In March alone, Florida growers placed over 5 million pounds of produce within Florida and throughout the Feeding America national network of food banks.
South Florida farms such as Lipman Family Farms, Bedner’s Farm Fresh Market, R.C. Hatton, Hundley Farms, Roth Farms and others continued to donate thousands of servings of tomatoes, lettuce, sweet corn, cabbage, bell peppers and cucumbers. Wish Farms in Plant City donated more than 255,000 pounds of berries. Some grower companies also donated medical masks and supplies, bottles of water and orange juice to essential workers and local residents.
These are just a few examples of donations made during an unprecedented crisis. Even through adversity, one thing we can count on is that farmers will continue to provide communities a safe and steady food supply.