SUPPORTING STRUGGLING FARMERS
Due to the nationwide closure of restaurants, cafes, hotels, and schools, many American farmers have been compelled to plow under thousands of acres of vegetable crops, dump countless gallons of milk, smash millions of eggs, and let mountains of potatoes and onions rot. They simply have nowhere to send a substantial portion of their product. Many have redirected some of their excess crops to food banks, but this is costly and time consuming. And there is only so much that can be done when there are not enough refrigerators to preserve perishable goods and not enough volunteers to process, transport, package and distribute the food.
However, enterprising nonprofits and even some for-profit corporations have devised ways to save some of this excess food, provide meals for the needy, and keep suffering farms in business.
The Mid-Atlantic Food Resilience and Access Coalition
Established by Tom McDougall, the owner of food distributor 4P Foods, the Mid-Atlantic Food Resilience and Access Coalition (MAFRAC) is on a mission to keep at-risk communities nourished, to keep farmers growing, and to keep other food operations in business. Headquartered in Virginia, the nonprofit connects farmers who have extra food with food banks and other organizations that are feeding the needy. Additionally, MAFRAC engages furloughed or unemployed restaurant staff to carry out the work related to its mission. So far the organization has contributed to the creation and distribution of 25,000 shelf-stable food aid boxes. It has hired hundreds of unemployed taxi drivers to deliver food to homes. And it has converted tons of apples that were destined for the dump into 12,000 jars of applesauce. MAFRAC has raised money from various trusts and philanthropies, and, of course, is seeking millions more from donors to continue its good work.
The USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program
As part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the US Department of Agriculture is purchasing and distributing $3 billion of agricultural products to those in need. It will procure $100 million per month of produce, $100 million per month of dairy products, and $100 million per month of meat products. The Department is partnering with wholesalers and distributors to assemble the products into food aid boxes and provide them to food banks, community and faith-based organizations, and other non-profits serving Americans in need.
Students at Brown University have founded FarmLink, a grassroots movement that connects farms with food banks to feed thousands in need while supporting essential jobs. In short, the organization raises money to purchase excess crops from farmers and transport them to food banks. According to FarmLink, “100% of donations towards FarmLink are used to pay the wages of farm workers and truckers, thereby keeping employees staffed, preventing fresh produce from ending up in dumps, and putting food onto the tables of those who need it most.” FarmLink has expanded its team to include volunteers across the nation.
Publix and Feeding America
Publix, a 90-year-old grocery store chain with 1,242 locations across the American southeast has launched an initiative to assist regional farmers and feed those in need. The corporation plans to purchase millions of pounds of surplus produce and tens of thousands of gallons of surplus milk, and donating it all to food banks in the Feeding America network. To date, the program has transferred over 1 million pounds of fruits and vegetables and more than 100,000 gallons of milk. Publix employs over 200,000 people. Its 2018 revenues were north of $36 billion. And, since 2009, the company has donated over $2 billion in food to people in need.
As a food retailer, we have the unique opportunity to bridge the gap between the needs of families and farmers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. In this time of uncertainty, we are grateful to be able to help Florida’s produce farmers, southeastern dairies and families in our communities.Publix CEO Todd Jones