MOUNT DORA, Fla. – A Mount Dora farm is participating in a new program with Publix to help farmers struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as help fight hunger.
Crates were staked high with boxes and loaded onto a semi at Long & Scott Farms in Mt. Dora Thursday morning. Forklifts filled the truck with 40,000 pounds of pickle cucumbers.
Hank Scott, the president and owner of the farm, said this was one of six truck loads picked up this week, compared to their usual 25 truck loads a week.
"I got a call from Publix saying they were going to set it up to do it this way," Scott said.
Scott said this was the first shipment of produce being delivered as part of Publix's new program. The grocery chain is buying produce directly from farmers and donating it to food banks.
The grocer said this is how they can help feed people who are struggling during the pandemic as well as help farmers stay afloat.
"They are paying us some money to cover our harvest costs, to cover the packaging costs and grading costs. We'll get a little of the growing costs back. It's definitely not a profit center, but we'll recoup a little money," Scott said.
The food collected through the program is going to Feeding America food banks, including Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. President & CEO Dave Krepcho said the food they're receiving should arrive soon.
"It's a great boost to our inventory of products that we can distribute to people in need," Krepcho said.
Representatives with Publix say it does not have a cap or goal for the program. It’s only objective to help as many families as possible.
Florida farmers have been hit hard by the coronavirus. During Thursday's Re-Open Florida Task Force meeting, the president of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association said there has been a $552 million impact to the economy and that mostly comes from the lake of demand.
"People aren't buying produce like they normally would. They're buying canned goods that can last on their shelves in case things really get worse," Scott said.
Scott said he has lost about 85% of his commercial business, but he has seen a spike at his farmer's market. He said people are choosing to shop at the farm instead of going to grocery stores.
He is hoping the country reopens soon. But until then, he said he is donating what he can and trying to save his harvest.
"We're not handling real good right now. It's hurting us. So the sooner that we can get this country opened back up and the restaurants going again and people buying again like they normally would," Scott said. "If we can save the last half of our crop that's going to be significant."
He adds he hopes something good will come out of the pandemic.
“Maybe with any luck after this whole thing is said and done we’ll do more business, local farmers and the chain stores, and keep the business that we got here at the farmer’s market,” Scott said.