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The first truckload of milk produced by dairy farmers in Florida is due to arrive at a food bank in Jacksonville on Friday as part of a new Publix donation program.
Susan King, CEO of Northeast Florida, said, “I checked with our inventory specialists. We haven’t had milk or dairy products since the beginning of March. So this will be a wonderful treat at a great time. “
Lakeland-based Publix makes a donation to the Feeding America members’ food banks in its areas of operation to support the produce and dairy farmers in Florida. A truck with 26 pallets of fresh produce arrived in Jacksonville on Wednesday from the program.
The food will be distributed to nearly 100 agency partners in northeast Florida, King said.
“We’ll either make mobile pantries or the agencies will pick up and distribute themselves,” said King. “Generally they do drive-through routes or just by appointment.”
Connected: Local, state, and national coronavirus coverage
According to Feeding America, an estimated 17.1 million additional people will suffer food insecurity due to school closings and rising unemployment during the coronavirus pandemic.
Prior to the pandemic, King said Feeding Northeast Florida moves about 50,000 pounds of food a day. Now that number is between 75,000 and 85,000 pounds a day.
With schools, restaurants and hotels closed, some farmers have had to waste unsold milk and produce.
NPR reported that in Florida vegetable farmers have given up ready-to-harvest fields of tomatoes, yellow squash, and cucumbers due to a lack of business.
“We can’t pick the produce if we can’t sell it because we can’t afford the payroll every week,” said Kim Jamerson, a vegetable grower near Fort Myers.
Publix’s initiative is expected to take several weeks.
“Like so many others right now, Florida farmers are in a time of need. We are humble Publix is buying additional fresh vegetables from us and other local farms to donate to food banks across the Southeast, “said Peter F. Pero IV, CEO of Pero Family Farms Food Co., in a statement.
Feeding Northeast Florida worked with grocery stores, manufacturers, and farms during the COVID-19 pandemic.
King said even when the pandemic is behind us, she reckons the need will continue based on what she saw during the Great Recession.
“Unfortunately, based on the experience from 2008 and 2009 and the demand for services, I can predict a little. During that time, I was with an agency in 2011 and we still saw the need for food aid as the financial impact is long-lasting. “
Publix Super Markets Charities made a total of $ 2 million in donations to aid Feeding America members’ food banks during the pandemic, according to the company.
“We have only been immensely blessed with the support of the church,” said King.
Bill Bortzfield can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.