Bursting with fresh citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruit, and farm staples including squash, cucumbers, cabbage, green beans and bell peppers, South Florida is one of the nation’s largest and most abundant agricultural regions. Yet even with more than 45,000 farms harvesting millions of tons of produce annually, getting meals to residents in need during the coronavirus has required ingenuity and dedication. “Our team has had to be extremely creative in the way it sources food,” says Paco Vélez, president and CEO of Feeding South Florida, the area’s largest hunger-relief organization.
One way they have done that is to pay local farmers to harvest their crops—rather than leave them in the fields—despite the lack of commercial demand for such things as fresh produce, meats and fish. And because grocery stores have had far less to donate, Feeding South Florida has turned to buying large quantities of food directly from distributors, spending up to $70,000 for a single truckload. Donations such as a $520,000 grant from Bank of America are helping Feeding South Florida ease strained budgets and provide food to hungry families.