Initiative redirects milk, produce
A recent product of Publix’s generosity is the Farmers and Family initiative.
Through the effort, Publix bought fresh produce and milk to assist farmers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The company then donated these products directly to Feeding America member food banks in its operating area.
The initiative began with Florida produce farmers, Southeastern dairy farmers and the growing number of families looking to Feeding America for fresh fruits, vegetables and milk. At the time it was announced in April, Publix CEO Todd Jones said the company was grateful for the chance to help.
“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,” he said.
According to Feeding America, an estimated 17.1 million additional people experienced food insecurity due to school closures and rising unemployment during the 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 and CEO Paco Velez. “We’re grateful to Publix for not only supporting growers, but also for their years of support of Feeding South Florida.”
With numerous reports of farmers discarding produce and milk that isn’t being sold – mostly as a result of school, restaurant and hotel closures – Publix helped address the needs of both the farming community and its local partner food banks through this initiative.
“We are thrilled about Publix’s initiative to buy additional milk from Southeast Milk for processing and donation to Feeding America member food banks,” said Southeast Milk Inc. President Joe Wright. “It’s a win-win for our farmers who are feeling the impact of decreased demand and the families who are in need of nutrient rich milk during this pandemic.”
The effort has since expanded to include Publix’s entire seven-state coverage area. Reflecting on the effort six months later, Jones praised the efforts of the grocer’s team and its partners.
“Farmers and Family is something I’m extremely proud of – of the team and how it evolved and how it’s come to life,” he said. “Right at the very beginning…literally within the first day or two when COVID-19 really started to increase in concern within the country and outside of the country, I received a text from one of our state-elected officials. It was a picture on a farm of four semi-loads of raw milk, with the valves open, just dumping it on the ground.
“And we just knew that we needed to figure something out to
try to help because the total consumption of food was probably pretty constant. It just shifted from one side of a business to another – the school systems or the travel industry – in places that weren’t using it.”
Jones went on to note that Publix assembled a team to address the issue.
“We got our produce team involved in it because we were hearing and seeing a lot of produce, as well as milk, being tilled under. About 10 days later, we had our Farmers and Family program in place.”
Jones went on to offer an update on the program as of October.
“Within the last week or two, we’re probably at 13 million pounds of produce that we’ve pushed back out into the marketplace for the customers in our area, and 5,000 or 6,000 gallons of milk,” he said. “It’s been a great program and very rewarding to see it going in the right places.”
“We’ve got a lot of great people with the right mindset to do the right thing – to take care of the communities we operate in.”
Throughout the company’s history, Publix has supported organizations working toward alleviating hunger in its neighborhoods. Since 2009, Publix has donated more than $2 billion in food to people in need and has pledged an additional $2 billion in food donations over the next 10 years.