Vice President Mike Pence praised the decades-old Florida-based supermarket chain Publix on Friday for launching a new initiative to purchase fresh produce and milk to assist farmers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and donate the goods to food banks in need.
Publix, the largest employee-owned company in the United States, announced on Friday that it will donate the purchases made from farmers directly to Feeding America member food banks in its operating area. Produce farmers in Florida as well as southeastern dairy farmers and the growing number of families looking to Feeding America for fresh fruits, vegetables and milk during the coronavirus pandemic are all expected to benefit from the initiative set to last several weeks.
“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,” Publix CEO Todd Jones said in a statement. “In this time of uncertainty, we are grateful to be able to help Florida’s produce farmers, southeastern dairies and families in our communities.”
“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,” Feeding South Florida President & CEO Paco Velez said in a statement responding to the Publix donation. “We’re grateful to Publix for not only supporting growers, but also for their years of support of Feeding South Florida.”
The move by Publix comes as many farmers across the country have been forced to dump a staggering surplus of milk and fresh produce despite a growing demand for stock at food banks. The New York Times recently reported that while farmers have donated some of their surplus to food banks, there is a limit to the amount of perishable food these organizations can store.
Additionally, the costs of harvesting, processing and then transporting produce and milk to food banks or other areas of need would put further financial strain on farms that have seen half their paying customers disappear, the Times said. Exporting the excess food would also be unprofitable for the farmers so they are left with no other choice but to dump the food.
“We are thrilled about Publix’s initiative to buy additional milk from Southeast Milk for processing and donation to Feeding America member food banks,” Southeast Milk Inc. President Joe Wright said in response to Publix’ decision. “It’s a win-win for our farmers who are feeling the impact of decreased demand and the families who are in need of nutrient rich milk during this pandemic.”
Pero Family Farms Food Co. CEO Peter F. Pero IV also praised the move.
“Like so many others right now, Florida farmers are in a time of need. We are humbled Publix is purchasing additional fresh vegetables from us and other local farms to donate to food banks throughout the Southeast,” he said. “Thank you to Publix, the participating food banks and their volunteers for making this initiative possible for those less fortunate while supporting local farms.”