July 9, 2020
By: Staff Report
Tallahassee, Fla. — Today, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried hosted a virtual press conference with nonprofit leaders to announce a $100,000 Walmart Foundation grant project to fight food insecurity in Florida’s rural communities.
“Despite Florida growing over 300 commodities and enough fresh produce to feed 150 million Americans, nearly 3 million Floridians suffer from food insecurity, including 850,000 children – and this was before the public health and economic crises of COVID-19,” said Commissioner Fried. “We’ve had to get creative to help fight chronic hunger, and that includes public-private partnerships, particularly in rural areas. That’s why we’re so grateful to the Walmart Foundation for their generous support, providing $100,000 to rural food banks and farmers that will help Florida’s families in need. This partnership is a great example of government, the private sector, and nonprofits coming together to serve our neighbors during a crisis.”
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), through its direct support organization Living Healthy in Florida (LHIF), will administer the grant to benefit farmers and food banks in areas adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Through this partnership, FDACS and LHIF will provide funding to food banks and pantries that do not receive traditional federal assistance in Flagler, Highlands, Levy, Putnam, Union, Walton, and Palm Beach Counties. Six of the seven counties are designated Rural Areas of Opportunity.
“As a company, Walmart has made a commitment to support organizations meeting critical needs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Monesia T. Brown, Director of Public Affairs & Government Relations for Walmart. “Our support of Living Healthy in Florida will be twofold – saving locally grown produce and increasing access to food in our communities. We know farmers, especially those in Florida, have seen a significant impact to their business during this challenging time. At the same time, our state has seen an increased need for access to nutritious food for our neighbors, friends and family. Over the last several months, our community has come together in an extraordinary way. Walmart is proud to support Floridians during this time of great need.”
“I’d like to thank the Walmart Foundation for their funding partnership to support this innovative solution that will help feed hungry Floridians, reduce commodity waste, and increase the operational capacity of rural food banks and pantries,” said Karla Shellnutt, Vice President of Living Healthy in Florida and Associate Professor and State Program Leader for Nutrition at the University of Florida. “COVID-19 has resulted in a significant increase in unemployment in Florida, and has led to more and more families visiting food banks and food pantries for assistance. Many of these programs have not been able to meet this increase in demand. This grant initiative will have a huge impact on several food banks to obtain infrastructure needed to help increase their capacity to serve.”
The selected food banks and pantries will receive grant packages that include funding to support operational and infrastructure improvements, such as enhancing capacity for storing and serving food, and one-on-one coaching from UF/IFAS Extension public health specialists to support nutrition education efforts.
“Food banks are having a very difficult time across Florida with food insecurity issues compounded by COVID-19,” said Mary Foy, Board Member of Heartland Food Bank in Highlands County. When we started our food bank ten years ago, our goal was to ensure that nobody went hungry, and that continues to be our mantra. As families struggle daily under normal conditions, it’s only greatly intensified now. In Highlands Park and Sebring, we are among the top 10 poorest communities in Florida, but we’re trying to do something about it, and with this help, we will achieve our goal” it should change to read “In Avon Park and Sebring, we are among the top 10 poorest communities in Florida, but we’re trying to do something about it, and with this help, we will achieve our goal.”
The grant program will also partner with a nonprofit farmer network, the Center for Sustainable Agricultural Excellence and Conservation (CSAEC), which will provide pre-made produce boxes to the selected food banks for distribution to families. This diverse nonprofit network of farmers includes minority, women, and veteran owned farms that have supported the donation and delivery of over 80,000 pounds of fresh produce to homes of seniors and families throughout COVID-19.
“As a fourth-generation farmer in Florida, growing in greenhouses since the 1970s, we believe that we can change the hunger landscape by putting food directly in the hands of communities that need it the most, said Angela TenBroeck, Founder and President of the Center for Sustainable Agricultural Excellence and Conservation. “Our Farmer and You non-profit program is proud to be working in seven counties for the last 16 weeks, and has moved more than 80,000 pounds of produce to the doors of our neighbors using our farm-to-door approach with an army corps of 15 volunteer drivers. Thank you, Commissioner Fried and Walmart Foundation, for giving us the opportunity to help our fellow farmers as we help our communities.”
The food banks selected for this grant program include:
First United Methodist Church of Bunnell (Flagler County)
Heartland Food Bank (Highlands County)
The Children’s Table (Levy County)
South Putnam Church (Putnam County)
Food For Thought (Walton County)
Faith Hope Love Charity, Inc. (Palm Beach County)
To learn more about Living Healthy in Florida, its programs, and its partnership with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit LivingHealthyInFlorida.org. To learn more about the Walmart Foundation and its efforts to build healthier, resilient systems that are good for society, visit Walmart.org.
Publishers Note: While The Free Press will always be free for our readers, and ad-supported, we are asking our loyal readers to consider a monthly donation of $3 to maintain our local journalism and help us grow, as we ramp up ad sales locally.
We thank you all for your consideration and supporting local journalism.