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Coronavirus prompts Publix to buy excess food from farmers for donations

Grocery chain is giving produce and milk to Feeding America food banks to minimize COVID-19 food waste

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Publix Super Markets Inc. has announced a new initiative that will provide hunger relief and minimize food waste in the U.S. amid the coronavirus pandemic. The announcement comes two weeks after news broke that farmers are being forced to throw away produce and milk intended for restaurants, schools and hotels.

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The grocery chain will continuously purchase fresh produce and milk from impacted farmers and donate the critical food items to local Feeding America food banks, according to a company statement. More than 150,000 pounds of produce and 43,500 gallons of milk were donated in the initiative’s first week.

“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,” said Publix CEO Todd Jones. “In this time of uncertainty, we are grateful to be able to help Florida’s produce farmers, southeastern dairies and families in our communities.”

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“In addition to providing much-needed produce and milk to food banks, this initiative provides financial support to farmers during this challenging time,” he continued. “We’re honored to be able to work with these groups and do good together for our communities.”

The initiative is supporting Florida produce farmers and southeastern dairy farmers in addition to the families and individuals who rely on Feeding America for fresh fruits, vegetables and milk. Amid the pandemic, Feeding America estimates 17.1 million additional people will experience food insecurity due to school closures and rising unemployment. Thus, Publix is expecting its initiative to run for several weeks.

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“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,” said Feeding South Florida President & CEO Paco Velez. “We’re grateful to Publix for not only supporting growers, but also for their years of support of Feeding South Florida.”

Publix Super Markets Charities has also made a $2 million donation to support Feeding America member food banks during the pandemic.

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Since 2009, the company has donated more than $2 billion in food to hunger relief efforts. More recently Publix has pledged to make another $2 billion in food donations, which will be distributed over the next 10 years.