Publix and Feeding Northeast Florida are rolling out a six-week program to help keep people fed going into the new year.
Publix is donating nearly 1.3 million pounds of food to six food banks across the state, including Feeding Northeast Florida based in Jacksonville. The donations include pasta, canned vegetables, canned beans, cereal and boxed potatoes.
“This could not have come at it at a better time as we were really facing this food cliff,” Feeding Northeast Florida President Susan King told WJCT News Wednesday. The regional food bank was facing a reduction due to a USDA program’s end.
King expects to receive the first truckloads in January.
“When we heard from food banks that they were facing a critical food shortage, we knew that, as a food retailer, we had another opportunity to help,” said Publix CEO Todd Jones.
Feeding Northeast Florida has seen the need for food more than double since the start of the pandemic. King said her organization expects to distribute approximately 31 million pounds of food through the end of the year, as compared to about 16 million pounds last year.
King said the agencies she works with are seeing two to three times more people reaching out for help.
Looking ahead to 2021, King said the elevated need for food assistance is expected to continue.
Publix is also donating to food banks in South Florida, Tampa Bay, Fort Myers, Central Florida and the Treasure Coast.
The new Publix program follows one the Lakeland-based grocer launched in April to buy surplus produce and milk from farmers affected by the pandemic and deliver it directly to food banks.
Through that program, Publix expected to purchase and deliver more than 18 million pounds of produce and over 500,000 gallons of milk to Feeding America member food banks throughout the Southeast by year’s end.
From the beginning of March through the end of October, food banks nationwide have distributed an estimated 4.2 billion meals, according to Feeding America, which estimates that as a result of the pandemic, 1-in-6 Americans could face hunger at some point.