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Florida farmers donated millions of pounds of produce to locals during harvest

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Florida farmers had begun harvesting what promised to be a bumper crop. The food service industry swiftly shut down, and the fresh fruit and vegetables typically grown for cruise ships, restaurants, schools and other destinations had nowhere to go. With a disruption that no one could have predicted, growers had a new challenge this season: Getting massive volumes of fresh produce distributed to others before it went bad.

Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association grower members have always been strong partners of Feeding Florida and its statewide network of food banks. But timing was of the essence for such a large amount of food. There are limits on the quantity of fresh produce food banks can accept because of cold storage capacity for perishable products. Florida farmers and feeding programs had to act fast, and with a limited number of resources during the stay-at-home order, they had to find new ways to move product.

During the remainder of the season, growers worked closely with their local food banks to deploy the necessary resources to move food and supplies quickly and efficiently throughout the state to families in need. They partnered with distributors and local organizations to drop off products. At the same time, many farms gave consumers an opportunity to purchase directly from the farm.