Schools, hotels and restaurants buy a lot of food from farmers, but even with delivery and carryout, demand has taken a dive. Unable to sell their goods, some farmers have been forced to dump their milk and plow vegetables right back into the ground.
Meanwhile, food banks have been struggling to meet the surge in demand that has followed record unemployment amid the coronavirus pandemic. Between school closures and rising unemployment, Feeding America estimates an additional 17.1 million people will experience food insecurity.
“In addition to providing much needed produce and milk to food banks, this initiative provides financial support to farmers during this challenging time,” Publix CEO Todd Jones said in a press release about the initiative.
And it has been a challenging time. Before the pandemic, $285 million in produce went to schools, hotels and restaurants every week in California alone, the Western Growers Association told Reuters. In Florida, where Publix is partnering with produce farmers, theme parks and cruise lines had also been also regular customers of local farmers.
Dairies could be dumping an estimated 2.7 to 3.7 million gallons of milk per day, Dairy Farmers of America told CNN. “Dairy is a daily crop,” Alan Bjerga of the National Milk Producers Federation told the network. “When a young milk cow gets put into production, you don’t turn the production on and off. And so it’s very difficult to be quickly responsive to a crisis.”
Publix saw the opportunity to help connect the excess supply farmers have to the higher demand for food needed at Feeding America food banks. So, the supermarket chain will buy more than 150,000 pounds of produce and 43,500 gallons of milk to donate to Feeding America.
“As we respond to the coronavirus pandemic, Publix understands that more families are turning to us to help put food, especially fresh produce and milk, on their tables,” said Feeding South Florida president and CEO Paco Velez in a press release. “We’re grateful to Publix for not only supporting growers, but also for their years of support of Feeding South Florida.”
Kudos to Publix for finding a way to help both farmers and food banks in a time of need!